• Villainess, The



    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: November 21st, 2017.
    Director: Jung Byoung-Gil
    Cast: Kim Ok-Vin, Shin Ha-Kyun, Bang Sung-Jun
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    The Villainess opens with a scene shot from a first person point of view wherein a woman named Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin) is mowing down countless thugs through a long, dimly lit hallway. She’s a highly trained assassin and, in this sequence at least, hell-bent on getting revenge against the men that murdered her father years ago. The scene is dizzying, almost to the point where it might cause nausea for some viewers, but it is certainly effective. Sook-hee’s face gets smashed into a mirror, the camera pulls back, and then we get an explanation for all of this over the couple of hours.

    When she wakes up, Sook-hee, who was trained in the fighting arts as a child, is at the National Intelligence Service. She’s been recruited by them to work as an undercover agent. She refuses at first but is won over once she realizes that if she accepts this, not only will she earn her freedom in a few years, she’ll get to take on a mission that could change her life. As Sook-hee tries to figure all of this out, she and fellow agent Hyun-soo (Jun Sung) grow closer – but can he be trusted? Can anyone be trusted? And what of this man Joong-sang (Ha-kyun Shin) to whom she seems to have a connection? As Sook-hee’s past comes back to haunt her, things get complicated… and so very, very violent.

    Influenced by pictures like Old Boy, The Raid and the Kill Bill pictures Jung Byoung-Gil’s The Villainess is hyper-stylish, ultra-violent entertainment. The film is at its best when it isn’t overdoing it with the handheld camerawork that it seems to prefer during the action scenes. When the camera pulls back and slows down, it feels less like a video game and more like a movie. It’s then that we can take in just how impressive some of the picture’s compositions are, and how beautiful its use of color is. The more spastic moments, which happen throughout the movie, do at least convey a sense of anarchic action, but from a cinematic standpoint, it’s overdone.

    That complaint aside, The Villainess is pretty solid stuff. There’s a good story told here, one with some interesting twists and turns that unravels at a good pace and makes use of some interesting – and occasionally very telling – flashback scenes. If character development is occasionally a little undercooked, there’s enough here to keep us interested in Sook-hee thanks in no small part to Kim Ok-bin’s excellent performance. Sure, she’s a super sexy deadly assassin but she manages to infuse that stereotype with some genuine pathos and the movie is all the better for it. Supporting work from Jun Sung and Ha-kyun Shin as the two very different men in her life is also solid, but really, it’s Kim Ok-bin who really shines here. Her work in Thirst was good, her work here is better.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Villainess looks great on a 25GB Blu-ray disc in this AVC encoded 2.39.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer from Well Go USA. Depth is impressive here as is the color reproduction. There are no problems with compression artifacts and detail is generally strong throughout, although in some of those dizzying handheld scenes detail does blur a bit. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, black levels are strong and there are no noticeable problems with compression artifacts even if the disc is single layered. Texture is great, you can really soak up a lot of the intricacies of the costumes and sets used in the movie, and all in all the movie looks very good in high definition on this release.

    The primary audio option on this disc is a Korean language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, though an English language dubbed option is also available in the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. Dolby Digital Stereo tracks are also provided in English and Korean. Subtitles are provided in English only. Getting back to that Korean language lossless track, it sounds excellent. The film makes great use of the surround channels, especially during the action scenes, fights and shoot outs, so expect a good amount of sound effects to zip past you fairly often. Dialogue stays clean and clear, the subtitles are easy to read and free of any typographical errors, and the levels are properly balanced throughout. All in all, this is a very lively and active mix and a very enjoyable one at that.

    The main extras on the disc are a pair of making of featurettes. The first, The Action Choreography, runs just under three minutes and shows off some of the stunts and action scenes being put together. The second, The Characters, is just under two minutes and as you’d probably have guessed by now, gives us a quick overview of the characters in the movie. Outside of that the disc also contains a teaser and proper trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Well Go USA properties, menus and chapter selection.

    As this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie that includes extra features that mirror the Blu-ray disc is also included inside the case. Well Go USA has also packaged this release with a nice slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    The Villainess is genuinely dizzying movie, over the top in its style and content, but if you can get past the over the top elements and camerawork, there’s a solid story of stone cold revenge here. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release is light on extras but it does look and sound excellent.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!