Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Assassination: Gianna Jun Hits the Bullseye
from Ahn Okyun’s experiences, the Korean resistance was a lot like the French
underground. Traitors from within were a far greater threat than efforts to
root them out. In fact, the greatest threat to her mission comes from the
turncoat who recruited her in the first place in Choi Dong-hoon’s Assassination (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
was born in Korea, but she never lived there. Her nanny managed to save her
when her collaborating dog of a father had her loyalist mother killed. She grew
up as part of the free Korean diaspora, becoming a sniper in the Korean
Independence Army, despite her spectacles. In contrast, her twin sister lived a
life of luxury bought and paid for with blood money. Never really knowing her
father, she has no reservations about assassinating him. Hopefully, she will
also be able to take out Kawaguchi, the local Japanese commander, who happens
to be responsible for the death of her adopted mother.
complicate matters, Captain Yem, the supposed hero of the provisional
government is actually working with the Japanese to undermine the plot he was
ordered to launch. Initially, he entrusts the job to a notorious outlaw known
as Hawaii Pistol, but the gun-for-hire is about to have his Casablanca moment. Remember that bit
about Ahn being a twin? It will be significant.
different flavors of vintage firearms were used in the making of Assassination, which should instill confidence
in its action scenes—and rightly so. Even though Choi’s screenplay is chocked
full of Shakespearean elements—betrayal, grudges, twins separated by
circumstances—the action quota and body count are closer to old school John
Woo. It is sort of like Melville’s Army of Night, but with all the existential angst replaced with
director Yu Sang-seop pulls out all the stops down the stretch, delivering a
centerpiece spectacle that is truly a thing of beautiful carnage. The entire
third act is a non-stop ballet of gunfire, but Choi ends it with some stone
cold operatic payback. This is the kind of film that turns fans onto Asian
action movies in the first place.
Jung-jae is terrifically loathsome as Yem and Ha Jung-woo’s Hawaii Pistol
certainly holds up his end during the action sequences, but Gianna Jun commands
the film from start to finish. She was great in Choi’s The Thieves, but this is another level up for her as an action
lead. She looks like a natural firing the Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle, but she
also expresses the sort emotional turmoil you would expect from an orphan,
whose family relationships are about to get considerably more complicated.
Assassination somehow runs a robust
one hundred thirty-nine minutes, but they are a lean, mean one hundred
thirty-nine minutes. It feels drastically shorter, because most of the time is
devoted to action and the relatively quiet moments are used for some pretty effective
intrigue. For action fans, this is the good stuff. Very highly recommended, Assassination opens this Friday (8/7) in
New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Gianna Jun, Korean Cinema