Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: Assassination (2015)

Assassination (Review)
Choi Dong-hoon/Jun Ji-hyun/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a very interesting and entertaining action film."

During the 1930s, a Korean independence group plots the assassination of a Japanese general and a Korean businessman, but the plot is complicated when a spy reports their activities...

Assassination is a bit complicated. The film begins in 1911 where Yeom Seok-jin (Lee Jung-jae) tries to assassinate a Japanese general and a pro-Japanese businessman, Kang In-guk. He fails and he's captured. Fast forward to the 1930s: Yeom Seok-jin is now the captain of an independence group. He's once again recruited to kill the same Japanese general and Korean businessman. This time, he is asked to enlist the help of Chu, Hwang, and Ahn Ok-yun (Jun Ji-hyun). From there, the film tosses a few twists and turns your way. A few of these twists felt forced and unnecessary, some rolled smoothly with the rest of the film. I don't want to spoil anything else, but let's just say a Korean hitman named "Hawaii Pistols" (Ha Jung-woo) also gets caught in this complex plot. The film leads to a decent ending.

Assassination is a great film with some unfortunate flaws. The film starts off a bit complicated due to its quick introduction of a large set of characters and its frequent time swaps – 1911, 1949, 1933, and a few more jumps. Fortunately, I grew aware of my surroundings by the end of the first act. I wasn't a big fan of the characters, though. Although I didn't hate these characters, not at all, I felt they were a bit cliché and more fitted for a heist film. Ok-yun stood out most with this issue. Although likable, she's the same 'awkward' marksman who rarely misses but can't interact with society because she's so hardened. It doesn’t really help when the dialogue is often the 'too cool for school' one-liner type. But, once again, these issues becomes less common during the latter half of the film.

I suppose Assassination is the type of film that grows on you because many of the issues I had with the movie occurred during the first half – and they weren't that significant to begin with. When the story eventually irons out, you have yourself a very interesting and entertaining action film. Some of the twists may not land, but it always keeps you engaged and it occasionally offers a surprise. The action scenes are also exhilarating. There are plenty of blazing shootouts and chase scenes to keep you at the edge of your seat. There's even a pinch of humor and romance tossed into this film – the latter wasn't very effective, but the humor was spot-on. (Oh Dal-soo sure knows how to make me chuckle.) Despite its issues, Assassination knows how to entertain.

Although I wasn't a big fan of her character, Jun Ji-hyun delivers a great performance. Ha Jung-woo and Lee Jung-jae also offer great support. In fact, the entire supporting cast was strong. The film is shot beautifully and the music is great. The set and costume design were also splendid. This is the type of film that whisks you into another world – I like that. The film is written by Lee Ki-cheol and Choi Dong-hoon; Dong-hoon also directs. The writing could have used some fine-tuning, especially towards the first act, but perhaps it's my fault for not being a native speaker. Still, it does feel a bit convoluted due to the cluttered storytelling and the few unnecessary twists. The direction, on the other hand, was mostly fine. Dong-hoon knows how to craft stylish and entertaining action films, as we've previously seen in The Thieves.

Overall, Assassination is a very good movie. There are some issues with the storytelling and the narrative, particularly with the complex plot – there are certainly a few bumps on the road. It often feels like it's chewing a mouthful and some of it doesn't taste very good – yeah, that's what it is. Still, I was very entertained throughout this film. I was fully immersed and invested by the second half. If you're a fan of the genre, I think you'll enjoy this one.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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