Review: Assassination

Assassination is Korea’s rollicking answer to those big, old-fashioned, star-studded spectacle movies that one can imagine John Sturges or J. Lee Thompson making in their ‘60s heyday. Equal parts lavish historical drama, mission-driven espionage thriller and pulpy revenge pic, it’s unrepentantly bloated, but it is also the fastest-moving, most giddily pleasurable 140 minutes I’ve spent in a theatre in quite some time.

Boisterously directed by Dong-Hoon Choi, the film boasts a ridiculously knotty script, teeming with characters and subplots, spread across three different time periods. At its most basic reading, the story tracks the assignment of Korean Provisional Government agent Yeom Seok-jin (Jung-jae Lee) to hire three rebels — Manchurian sniper Ahn Ok-yun (Gianna Jun), independence fighter Big Gun (Jin-woong Jo), and explosives expert Hwang Deok-sam (Choi Deok-moon) — to kill Japanese garrison leader Kawaguchi Shunsuke (Park Byung-eun) and wealthy sympathiser Kang In-gook (Lee Geung-young).

Because the film’s primary emphasis is on entertainment, anyone expecting a deeper, more considered understanding of Japan’s occupation of Korea during the ‘30s won’t find it here (unsurprisingly, all Japanese characters are one-dimensional). But whereAssassination truly delivers is on the plot and action front, complementing its exceedingly busy stew of double agents, mistaken identities and professional killers with kinetic, expertly staged set-pieces, engaging performances and well-timed splashes of comic relief. The bloody climactic shootout at a wedding will leave you breathless — we can add Jun to 2015’s growing list of formidable heroines.

Almost unavoidably, the film strains to finish — each character and narrative thread is given a pay-off — but as far as glossy blockbuster craft goes, Assassination is a top-notch package.

‘Assassination’ Movie Times