Byung-gil Jung’s actioner opens with an extended tour de force of death, as a very motivated assassin quickly and resolutely shoots, stabs and otherwise dispatches dozens of equally well-armed men. It’s presented like a first-person-shooter video game, and leaves no doubt that (1) the killer is very skilled, and (2) this is going to be one of those very bloody Korean crime films.
The assassin is revealed to be a young woman who, after being captured by some shadowy group, is taken to a training facility for highly skilled double-agents (I think), run by some larger intelligence service (so it seems). In time, Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim) is released to a “normal” life as an actress, but now, unbeknownst to her, the focus of another representative of the shadowy agency. Suffice to say, there seems to be a lot of double-crossing and identity-switching going on, and this is just one aspect of the plot that can make The Villainess a narrative challenge. The other is the film’s frequent use of flashbacks, which are not well grounded. By the end of the film, I had a mostly clear idea what had occurred, but this is a tricky puzzle to assemble.
Yet these aspects may not matter, because if you’re a fan of ultra-violent action and stunt scenes, you’ll have much to enjoy. I won’t ruin the surprises, but let’s just say it’s unlikely you’ve considered either swords or axes as useful driving implements.