Sorry Northern Limit Line, but this is how you make a good movie.
I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere that a lot of Chinese and Korean people really fucking hate Japan, especially older individuals who were alive somewhere between 1900 and 1945. Well, to be absolutely blunt, it’s because Japan was a bit of a cunt when it was occupying China and Korea.
Honestly, while it’s not good to oversimplify, one could argue it’s Japan’s fault there are even two Koreas to begin with, at least in terms of literally having two on a map. Who knows what would have happened if Japan didn’t give the north to the USSR and the south to the US after WWII? Maybe we have a civil war and it becomes the Korean War all over again. Maybe not. Nobody can say for sure (unless you have some educated theories you want to post below).
Japan has a long history of constantly trying to occupy both China and Korea throughout hundreds of years and they’ve been particularly brutal during the process. They were basically genocide advocates and while there was the usual raping, plundering, and pillaging, they were unusually chilling in their absolute disregard for their fellow humans.
They’ve been known to fuck around with babies, like toss them in the air and try to impale them on bayonets. I mean, that’s all you really need to fucking know. That says everything right there.
To make matters worse, the Japanese have never really issued a full apology with any sincerity; Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII a few days ago and the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, gave a statement about the whole shebang and let’s just say China, South Korea, and North Korea were not impressed.
So now you have a general understanding of why many older Asians hate Japan so much and you have the basic foundation for what’s going on in Assassination.
The movie is set mostly in the 1930s and revolves around a plot to take out a fairly important Japanese governor and a pro-Japanese Korean businessman. Three independence fighters are tasked with the assassination and their fates become entangled with two freelance Korean assassins when a traitor hires them to assassinate the independence fighters.
It’s a plot that’s a little confusing at first, but you quickly adjust to it even while you’re reading the English subtitles (I mean, I’m Korean so I understood a fair amount of what was going on, but still). I wrote about a Korean film before – Northern Limit Line – and how it didn’t really seem like a real cinematic experience at all.
Well that’s not the case here; Assassination is shot very competently and there are some aspects of the movie that remind me of Quentin Tarantino to be honest. Maybe it’s because there’s a distinct Western feeling to it and Tarantino has been interested in that in recent years with Django Unchained and his new flick, The Hateful Eight. Maybe it’s because the climax of the movie involves the female protagonist murdering the shit out of some Japanese soldiers while wearing a wedding gown.
Either way, this is a movie that’s really fun to watch, which brings me to another fairly common Korean theme in movies: the use of humor.
For whatever reason, pretty much every Korean film I’ve seen has included humor in some aspect. It might be in just one scene, or even in just one fleeting moment, but there always seems to be something funny somewhere in a Korean movie.
One might say it’s jarring for a film like this, which features some pretty shocking scenes like a little Korean girl explicitly getting shot in the chest by a Japanese officer because she bumps into him by accident. But it works and it’s because the movie does a really good job of maintaining a level head. We don’t get wanton scenes of carnage caused by the Japanese and I sense it’s because the director knew the target audience – fellow Koreans – wouldn’t need to see all that to get the context behind what he was filming.
That means international audiences might not get the full impact of how terribly the Koreans were treated under Japan’s bloody fist, but I’m hoping the message does come across when they see things like a kid get shot.
So as I was saying, Assassination is impressive because it so effectively utilizes humor in a scenario in which a different director might have gone the full sob routine. Instead, it’s almost like a vengeance film, with focus being put on the various Koreans and their relationships with each other as some of them try to kill bad people and the others inadvertently try to stop them because of that aforementioned traitor son of a bitch.
There are other plot twists involved here, and one might say they’re sort of cheesy or at least stretching it a little (I hope you like twins). But I liked them and it added another sense of intrigue in what’s basically an espionage film.
The acting is phenomenal as well and I think Koreans are some of the best actors in the world. I wish more of them were in Hollywood and I hope one day people will make a big fuss when none of them get nominated for Oscars just like when certain black folks got bent out of shape just because Selma didn’t get more nominations last year.
Assassination is a really good movie with excellent acting, an intriguing plot, good character development, humor, and most importantly, an important story with an important historical background.
Get the hell out of my website and go see it now.