Warning: Major spoilers ahead!
I love good action films. I enjoy a good fight sequence, though I feel queasy when swords or knives get used. When I saw the poster for Kill Boksoon, I was both excited and hesitant. The female lead was holding a grocery bag in one hand, and a bloody ax in the other.
“Will this be gory?” I asked myself. There was only one way to find out.
BTW, if you haven’t watched Kill Boksoon yet, this is your warning and reminder to start it already!
What is Kill Boksoon all about?
Gil Boksoon (Jeon Do Yeon) is a single mother to Gil Jae Yeong (Kim Si Ah). Like other single moms, she does the groceries, cooks, attends PTA meetings, and hopes Jae Yeong gets a good education. She’s also a plantita! She drives a Mercedes Benz G-Wagon and lives in a luxurious apartment in what I assume is an affluent neighborhood. Gil Boksoon is filthy rich because of a successful career in events planning.
Or so she tells the other moms at PTA.
Because underneath her pristine white bouclé coat (Chanel, possibly) and her pussybow blouse is a body laden with scars that only a fighter could get. Surprise! Boksoon is actually a top-tier assassin, and she calls her killing assignments "shows." They all do at M.K. Entertainment, spearheaded by the only other Grade-A assassin in the company, Cha Min Kyu (Sol Kyung Gu).
As an experienced killer, apprentices at M.K. Entertainment look up to her. She is legendary, after all. They even recreate some of Boksoon’s previous assignments as part of their training before debut (a.k.a. getting their first killing assignment). However, there are others in the company, like Director Cha Min Hee (Esom), who don’t like her at all. To Min Hee (Min Kyu’s younger sister), Boksoon is a has-been and she hates how her brother is willing to bend over backwards for her.
When Boksoon gets assigned her latest high-level "show," she cannot push through with it. Not because her opponent is beyond her power, but one can infer that it’s for ethical reasons. This botched assignment sends alarm bells throughout the upper echelons of M.K. Entertainment. Boksoon technically should be fired (literally?) from her post, but Min Kyu lets her off easily. He even accepts Boksoon’s request to not reassign the job to anyone else. This is her negotiating her contract renewal with M.K. Entertainment, which is why Min Kyu agrees because he doesn’t want to lose Boksoon.
This, however, does not sit well with Min Hee. As a director at the company, she takes matters into her own hands and assigns the "show" to Han Hee Sung (Koo Gyo Hwan)—Boksoon’s side bae. Min Hee promises to upgrade Hee Sung’s status to Grade A, as well as forego Hee Sung’s unsanctioned "shows." Additionally, Min Hee also gives the go-signal to all of Boksoon’s friends to wipe her out in exchange for working at M.K. This results in an epic battle where Boksoon emerges victorious, with the help of the intern Young Ji (Lee Yeon).
Killing all these other assassins, however, means that other assassin companies will go after Boksoon. Min Kyu has a plan to avert this crisis, which includes killing Young Ji since she is the only other living witness. Boksoon learns of this from Min Hee and she is livid—in fact, she is furious enough to kill Min Hee with a fountain pen. She sends the bloody tool to Min Kyu and now, it is teacher versus student.
Boksoon’s edge as a fighter is that she is able to anticipate her opponent’s every move. In her fight against Min Kyu, all scenarios lead to her demise. So in order to gain advantage, she uses Min Kyu’s weakness: herself. But while Boksoon succeeds in defeating Min Kyu, he has one last trump card over her: their fight scene is live-streamed and Jae Yeong, he tells her, is watching them.
(If you’re curious about Kill Boksoon’s cast members, we’ve listed down the movies and dramas where you might have already seen them before.)
Why you should watch Kill Boksoon
I love the wordplay involved in the title of the movie and how it encompasses all of the stages in Boksoon’s life. Foremostly, her name is Gil Boksoon. Thanks to phonetics, her surname that is spelled with a "G" can also sound like a "K." If you add a comma after it, you’ll have her daily task: “Kill, Boksoon.” Finally, towards the end, the hunter becomes the prey and everyone wants to “Kill Boksoon.”
For all of her acting stints in the past, this is actually Jeon Do Yeon’s first time starring in an action film—but you wouldn’t think that! The actress masterfully plays the role with the execution of a veteran, and that alone is worth watching. Boksoon ~slayed~ in those fight scenes, both literally and figuratively. It is hard to believe that this is the same actress who played the adorable Nam Haengson in Crash Course in Romance not too long ago.
But while the show is action-packed, there are also the tender moments that, again, highlight Jeon Do Yeon’s versatility as an actress. She may be a genius at her job but at home, she’s none the wiser. Raising a teenager, managing a household, and juggling work all at the same time is not an easy feat—which is a reality that a lot of people face. What fascinates me in this movie though, is the portrayal of a mother’s love. Boksoon has killed hundreds without batting an eyelash, but crumbles at the thought of her daughter possibly seeing her in action. Like any mother, she wants her child to grow as a good person. She may be away on business a lot, but Boksoon makes time for family when she should. She wants to be there for Jae Yeong—an affection she didn’t experience growing up, which also ended up being the reason for who or what she is today.
Aside from Boksoon, the show also portrays a lot of strong female characters in Jae Yeong, Min Hee, and Young Ji. Jae Yeong is in her rebellious phase, but we see her strong spirit that is actually reminiscent of Boksoon. Young Ji’s life may be cut short, but she was pegged as the next Boksoon at the agency. She also helped Boksoon take down five men in that epic battle scene in the diner. And while Min Hee is certainly not Boksoon’s friend, she does her job so well that even the leaders of the assassin companies notice her absence in high-stakes meetings.
Lastly, the show is directed by Byun Sung Hyun. He is a multi-awarded director whose works have garnered attention both locally and abroad like The Merciless and Kingmaker. Kill Boksoon is no exception. The film made its world premiere at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival and was well-received by the crowd and raked in glowing reviews.
One line in the film goes, "We wage wars in the name of peace. We want to believe lies over the truth. And killers gather and make rules." In his own words, Director Byun described the film as a contradiction. And the film actually is! You see a killer who has no problems cutting people into pieces, but finds it difficult to raise a teenager. It’s one thing to read a summary about the film, but it’s an experience on its own seeing this contradiction playing right before your eyes. Kill Boksoon is one film that’s worth 136 minutes of your time, with the post-credit scene definitely giving us reasons to hope for a sequel.
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