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Assassination - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Am-sal

South Korea 2015

Genre:
Action

Director:
Choi Dong-hoon

Cast:
Jeon Ji-hyeon
Lee Jeong-jae
Ha Jeong-woo
Oh Dal-soo
Jo Jin-woong
Lee Kyeong-yeong
Choi Deok-moon
Park Byeong-eun


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Assassination

Assassination - Film Screenshot 1

Story: The Japanese continue strengthening their grip on Korea as a colonial power, since certain Koreans sell their country to them on a silver platter. Yeom (Lee Jeong-jae) is a freedom fighter and attempts assassinating a Japanese who plays a key role in the occupation. However, the assassination fails. A few years later Yeom is supposed to free three people from prison: the sniper Ahn Ok-yoon (Jeon Ji-hyeon) and gunsmen Hwang Deok-Sam (Choi Deok-moon) and Chu Sang-ok (Jo Jin-woong). They are not only to see through the assassination from back then, but they are also tasked to kill Kang (Lee Kyeong-yeong), one of the Koreans who sold their country. But Yeom turns out to be a spy of the Japanese and passes on the information about the assassination attempt. Furthermore, Yeom hires the killer Hawaii Pistol (Ha Jeong-woo) and his right hand man (Oh Dal-soo) to kill the assassins. Things culminate in some shootouts and eventually Ahn even finds out that she has a twin sister she was seperated from as a child. Her father is no one else but Kang. This doesn't change anything for her, though. After all, the man and women of the freedom movement fight for the liberation of Korea.

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Review: "Assassination" is an ambitious action flick that toys with its own identity. Whether this is a history movie, a western or one of those pictures dealing with the war of independence, which are so typical coming out of Korea these days, isn't always clear. Ultimately, it's a fact that the movie wants to be all of this at the same time. And for most part it even succeeds. Despite all the words of praise directed at director Choi Dong-hoon ("The Thieves", "Tazza: The High Rollers") there are still a few drawbacks. For instance, the director can't always keep a clear focus on things and the running time is simply too long despite the obvious entertainment value. Moreover, the famous cast can't hide the fact that a keener eye for details concerning the elaboration of characters would have been desireable.

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The story is, frankly speaking, not extraordinarily smart, even though it wants to come across as such. Basically, the director constantly toys with the fact that several factions have a reason to kill a certain individual, but neither does it (for reasons which sometimes become apparent and at others don't) or everyone tries it at the same time without planning it out together beforehand, leading to inevitable chaos. A sellout, which pretty soon stands in the center of events and creates a decent antagonist, is carried pretty neatly by Lee Jeong-jae ("Operation Chromite"), although actingwise he has to wait for the finale to shift up a gear when he displays an impressively aged and haggard upper body, whereas we normally see him showcasing his sixpack. But this is also where one of the movie's problems arises.

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We chronologically jump from timeline to timeline. This may never happen in excess, but it still rips the story apart a bit. Of course, the actual aim was to give the events an epic scale and accordingly honor the secret heroes of the liberation of Korea. Thus, there is something almost propagandistic about the movie, too. This also becomes apparent in the Japanese all being depicted as monsters. Clichès can be found aplenty, meaning that there are villains at almost every corner. Jeon Ji-hyeon may depict the tough heroine of the movie, but Ha Jeong-woo ("The Handmaiden") often enough steals the show. The two are reunited after "The Berlin File" on the big screen, but the chemistry between them leaves a lot to be desired.

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The interesting supporting cast with Jo Jin-woong ("The Handmaiden") and Oh Dal-soo ("Tunnel") as the guys with the heavy artillery bestows a nice western charm upon the movie, along with the dusty streets of 1930's Korea and the shootouts. But there are also a few wonderfully designed set pieces, where you can clearly make out the 16 million dollar budget. Furthermore, there are most importantly two big shootouts, which are nicely choreographed and very stylish in their own regard. For example, there is one at a gas station and the finale at a wedding. There really isn't anything to complain about, particularly since there is some John Woo thrown into the mix as well. So, it should have become clear, that "Assassination" has taken quite a few pages out of other directors' books in regards to stilistic approach, yet never comes across as being ridiculous because of that.

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Unfortunately, the characters lack the kind of depth that would allow us to become emotionally engaged by their fate. The actual anticlimactic showdown in a courtroom also leaves a rather bitter taste. The relationships between the protagonists clearly should had been developed more, because as flat as they are some dialogues and actions aren't convincing either. Moreover, there are without a doubt a few plot holes since there are several occasions to bring the mission to a successful end a lot sooner. The way things are, coincidence plays a way too prominent part in the end. Still, apart from all those points of criticism you can't deny that "Assassination" is a well-achieved action flick you will be able to have a fun ride with.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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