Thoughts on… The Villainess (2017)

Raised by gangsters and trained from a tender age to be a pitiless machine of death and destruction, the unequalled assassin Sook-Hee is finally captured. With the promise of a brand-new life, Sook-Hee is recruited by a nefarious Intelligence Agency as a sleeper agent that will be allowed to be free after a full decade of service; however, this is easier said than done. Inevitably, the past will soon catch up with Sook-Hee, threatening to blow her cover, as betrayals and divided devotions will eventually lead to a hazardous path of mayhem and retribution. Who shall stand in the way of a promised future? (source)

The Villainess (2017, dir. Jung Byung-gil), also known as Ak-Nyeo in its native Korean, is kind of like the female version of The Raid (2011) except female-led. And Korean. It’s a thrilling ride, with some seriously memorable moments and fight sequences where you can’t help but think, “How did they even make this film?!”. Instead of writing a big review of the film, I’ll share with you some brief thoughts on it.

Here is a selection of my thoughts on The Villainess:

  1. This film starts off with one of the most exhilarating fight scenes you’ll see as of late. It’s seriously thrilling and almost hilariously violent, putting you inside the perspective of a ruthless and skilled killer.
  2. In that sense, The Villainess certainly starts on a high. But it hits a lull in the middle, and then returns for the end with a huge, violent blow-out that almost matches the ferocity of its beginning.
  3. The film plays around with the timeline of events of Sook-Hee’s life in an intriguing and compelling manner, however this can become confusing. You need to pay attention to certain characters’ haircuts and scars in order to follow the plot and remember who’s who in the zoo.
  4. However, when considering the need to pay distinct attention to certain characters’ physical presentations, and the non-linear storytelling, and the fact that its quality takes a dip somewhere in the middle… I believe these are all signals of a film that could be deemed ‘messy’.
  5. In some ways, I wish there were less story and more fighting, since it’s the story that lets you down. But! It’s a lot of fun.
  6. Kim Ok-Bin puts in a great performance as Sook-Hee, whose character certainly does evolve across the film from ruthless killer into someone with more of an emotional motivation behind her actions.
  7. Ultimately, The Villainess is an okay film that could have been a great film if some aspects of the story were edited down and made less convoluted.
  8. Still, I would definitely recommend this if you’re into super violent action thrillers, or a fan of The Raid or The Raid 2 (both great films).

3.5/5
Watch the trailer here.

Bonus fun: To get a sense of this film’s blatant and shameless violence, here is a selection of the plot keywords listed on the film’s IMDb page.

10 comments

  1. Thanks for the review…The Raid is to me the best action film ever, with Die Hard close behind – I wanted to see this and now I will go in focused and ready for the convoluted nature that some Asian action films can be – thanks!

    1. Thanks John! The Raid was so awesome. If you loved that one then it’s definitely worth watching this one!

      1. I will do so! I didn’t love “The Raid 2” as much, a bit convoluted and plot-heavy, but I love all Asian films, including the classic “The Killer” and “Hard-Boiled!” https://johnrieber.com/2012/06/30/killer-assassins-hard-boiled-killers-death-by-hammer-classic-asian-thrillers/

  2. […] Thoughts on the Villainess from Film Grimoire. […]

  3. Stabbed in the everything!!!

    1. Seriously, in the everything! So much stabbing.

  4. Looking forward to Avengers: Infinity War?

    1. You know, I’ve only ever seen one Avengers film! One day I’ll see them all.

  5. Paragraph Film Reviews · · Reply

    Agree with everything! Unnecessarily complex and convoluted, but for me it was sold as a mega badass action film, but was 3/4 plodding drama! Couldn’t fault the big set pieces though, just bought the DVD of this so I had them to hand!

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