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December 01, 2015


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Choi Dong-hoon - 2015
Well Go USA Entertainment BD Region A

What ever one might think of Choi Dong-hoon, I don't think he will ever be accused of being understated in his films. Choi's films are chockablock full of spectacular set pieces. So it is with Assassination, the historically inspired story that takes place primarily during the time of Japan's occupation of Korea.

Choi's previous film was The Thieves, the wonderful pan-Asian heist movie from 2012. Choi tries something as ambitious here. What gets in the way is that even with some knowledge of the history taking place, there are times when I felt the need for a score card to remind myself of which side some of the characters belonged to in the fight for Korean independence. As it is, the one part of the story that was a variation of The Corsican Brothers, with female twins separated following the assassination attempt of their father, was the least confusing part of this film.

Until the second half of the film, Choi mixes up comedy with adventure, with three disgraced rebels are assigned to kill a Japanese official and one of the leading Korean collaborators. The story hops from Manchuria to Shanghai, and finally to Seoul. It is made clear later why three unlikely persons were chosen for this assignment. The comic elements come in with the different playings of identity, primarily of the Korean characters navigating their way through Japanese territory. Further adding to the complications is the knowledge that there are rival factions of groups fighting for Korean independence, as well as persons who may be acting as double agents.

Among the three rebels in Ok-yun, a young woman and sniper who may or may not have deliberately shot her superior officer. Except for one brief moment when we see guns strapped to Ok-yun's thigh, Choi has chosen not to play up Jun's attractiveness, instead emphasizing the seriousness of Ok-yun, even as she samples coffee for the first time at French hotel in Shanghai. Jun is also in the most tragic scenes, in which the destruction of a family may well be representative of what happened to a country.

With all of the shooting, explosions and assorted mayhem, it is also to Choi's credit that the best scene, or more accurately, the most satisfying scene, is near the end, when the identity of the Korean rebel working for the Japanese is revealed. Identified and shot, revenge having no time limit even after Korean independence, the man staggers away from the camera, framed by two lines of laundry, white sheets, on the right and left side of the screen. The camera views that action without dramatic emphasis. After almost two hours of blood and bullets, Choi Dong-hoon also knows when to stand back.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 1, 2015 02:46 PM