Is “The Killer” Korea’s answer to John Wick? In this neo-noir action film, a man is on a mission to rescue a girl he’s vowed to protect.
In a world full of hitmen, corruption and sex traffickers, this retired killer must venture into the criminal underworld to uncover the mystery behind the kidnapping, and bring the girl to safety. He’ll do so by handing the kidnappers a deadly dose of gun-fu.
Starring Jang Hyuk and directed by Jae-Hoon Choi, this exceptional duo reunite, bringing their stroke of brilliance from their previous outing, “The Swordsman” (2020), to deliver an undeniable showstopper.
“The Killer” is on Digital now, and out on Blu-ray and DVD on April 17th!
Jang Hyuk stars as Bang Ui-Gang, a retired hitman living a quiet and financially secure life. He is an expert at hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship.
Despite his stoic, yet sadistic nature, his years of experience have helped nurture a casual personality. He even finds time to have a coffee during missions.
Lee Seo-young plays Kim Yun-Ji, a teenage girl under the care of Ui-Gang. She is vulnerable, yet can be quite unpredictable at times.
Bruce Khan plays Yuri, a Russian assassin and former member of Spetsnaz. Yuri serves as the main adversary to Ui-Gang.
A retired assassin, Bang Ui-Gang, is living a quiet life when his wife asks him to take care of her friend’s teenage daughter, Kim Yun-Ji.
When sex traffickers kidnap Kim, Ui-Gang must come out of retirement and use the most destructive skills at his disposal to rescue the girl.
On his journey through a morally bankrupt world involving Russian gangsters, axe-wielding thugs and corrupt officials, Ui-Gang must unravel the conspiracy behind the girl’s abduction.
Star, Jang Hyuk is a former trainee for the Korean military where he served for two years. Jang’s military background and previous portrayal of a stoic killer in “The Swordsman” prove he’s the perfect casting choice for this modern-day merciless assassin.
In addition to Jang’s military training, as well as experience in Jeet Kune Do and taekwondo, the fight choreography incorporates judo throws and the Filipino art of Kali (also known as Arnis and Escrima), a weapons-based martial art that specializes in blades and sticks. The artist is also able to adapt his skills using improvised weapons from magazines to pens.
Gun-fu is also present in its most stylistic and unforgiving nature. Jang Hyuk’s training further adds legitimacy to the shootouts.
Bring Me the Killer Knife
When confronting the sex traffickers, Ui-Gang makes his dominance known by dispatching the bodyguard with ease.
This unrelenting anti-hero doesn’t stop there as he proceeds to deliver unsettling and unnecessary punishment to the unconscious body, freaking the hell out the kidnappers in the process.
After an ensuing gun fight, Ui-Gang enters into a dark room with purple lights filtering the space, only to be ambushed by a Russian hitman by the name of Yuri. The two warriors engage in close quarters combat for the first time.
In a claustrophobic space, there are a lot of parries, trappings and flying kicks from the walls for good measure. Even in a confined area, the choreography remains engaging in a fast-paced and grounded approach.
Even though the first one-on-one encounter was short lived and unresolved, Ui-Gang received a taste of his first potential challenger, and his main weapon, the ballistic knife, which gives him an idea as to what he’s dealing with.
Rampage at the Don’t Tell Papa Motel
In the very first scene, the movie wastes no time showcasing the protagonist’s skills in combat.
His evasive manoeuvres and deadly precision effectively sell Ui-Gang’s abilities as an efficient killer.
Ui-Gang’s terrifying demeanour is successfully illustrated thanks to Jang Hyuk as he disappears into the role of the killer with a stoic expression and complete indifference to the circumstances of being outnumbered.
Although this scene which opens the film is chronologically out of sequence, it essentially sets the tone of a neo-noir aesthetic and the gritty style of action that is to be expected from Jae-Hoon Choi.
The fight would resume with Ui-Gang fending off multiple gang members, overwhelming them with sheer strength, turning their weapons against each other, and even bringing out his own Glock into the game.
From the motel’s upper floors to elevators and hallways, Ui-Gang is constantly on the edge in a building infested with gang members. Yet, through will power and terrifyingly impressive executions, this contract killer leaves a trail of bodies in his wake, and all through a multitude of impressive long takes.
With the introduction of gun-fu, the realism amps up and is truly delivered with the perfect blend of CGI blood and practical exit wounds.
Judgement at the Mansion
Wielding a Glock and an M200 sniper rifle, Ui-Gang wastes not a single bullet in his infiltration of the mansion with a touch of Jon Woo on every impact of the shot.
When ambushed by baton-wielding guards, Ui-Gang demonstrates his ingenuity in Kali, using broken furniture legs. Just when it seems Ui-Gang is at a disadvantage, his military prowess and quick thinking always pulls him through. It just comes so naturally to him.
When Yuri confronts the killer for the final time, the gun battle resumes. Even with constant movement in the center of a bar between two hitmen and more bad guys coming from all sides, there is still a sense of geography and clarity as to where everyone is and where they’re shooting from. This is the most important thing to remember when filming a shootout scene.
When the hero and villain close the gap, their established skillsets collide at a polished and exhilarating pace, with bullets, knives and fists all in one.
The faceoff is devoid of snappy dialogue or cheesy one liners, but the intent in both warriors and their actions tells the story to the audience.
The final battle doesn’t overstay its welcome and the blows feel a lot more personal from Ui-Gang and Yuri with a goal to finish their meeting once and for all.
The collaboration between Jang Hyuk and Jae-Hoon Choi once again brings their strengths into a no holds barred endeavour in a growing demand for well-executed action films.
Jang Hyuk demonstrates his versatility as an actor, balancing his casual personality outside of his former profession with the unsettling presence of a merciless killer returning to his prime.
The Korean star also provides a necessary amount of depth to a former hitman who is now tasked with safeguarding a vulnerable girl.
This is a character who is motivated by guilt and when the girl he’s responsible for ends up in danger, it pulls him back into his violent ways, ironically in the hope of redeeming himself in some way.
The lure of the hitman world is not as well-established or glamorous as the criminal world of John Wick, in fact, it doesn’t show up until later in the story’s third act. Yet the casual nature of the anti-hero, the shooting range owner and the cleaners are enough to give an unsettling vibe.
The film may suffer from pacing issues and a lack of character development, but when the action starts, much like Jang’s anti-hero, nothing is held back. Even with an almost untouchable hero, the constant threat of danger is enough to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
In a time where the film industry is thriving in South Korea and one man army heroes are in no short supply, this is a solid flick featuring well-orchestrated battles, conveyed by a dedicated actor in Jang Hyuk and a visionary filmmaker in Jae-Hoon Choi.
- “I became curious about her pain. But I could never find out. Only her warmth remained on my hand.” – Ui-Gang
- “First one to talk lives.” – Ui-Gang
- “I hate…being lonely.” – Kim
- “Whose day did I ruin?” – Ui-Gang
- “Don’t give up hope, you might just live.” – Ui-Gang
- The Killer premiered on April 23rd, 2022 at the Far East Film Festival.
- Jang Hyuk is trained in Jeet Kune Do and Taekwondo.
- Son Hyeon-ju’s character references “The Man from Nowhere”, another Korean action film from 2010.
- Jae-Hoon Choi’s first collaboration with star Jang Hyuk, was in his feature film and directorial debut, “The Swordsman” (2020).
- Jang Hyuk trained in the Korean Military and spent 2 years’ of service there.