Blade dance, rogue sayings, revenge lust – the real thriller has nothing to do with that. It’s everyday life that doesn’t let you out of the clamp. The jaw grinds because you can’t escape from yourself. The stomach is churning because a critical appointment is approaching. The shoulders cramp out of fear of everyday loss of control. And once again it’s the South Korean one Moviewho dares to take this banality seriously and bring it to the big screen in an action-packed crime drama.
Director Byun Sung-hyun tells the story of the professional killer Gil Boksoon in his Netflix production “Kill Boksoon”. She is the finest blade of the elite assassination agency MK Ent. She knows how to defend herself against any opponent. Their martial arts seem to be of historical precision, their sobriety and control in killing a rarity. She strides confidently through her boss’ marbled office, casually defying her competitors. Your prestige is unique. Her inner struggle, however, is not: Boksoon is a single mother.
Honour, revenge, pride – the social codes and strategies of their trade don’t work when dealing with their pubescent daughter. Bookson oscillates between motherly love and being a killer, endless affection and emotional coldness, the self-generated pressure of wanting to offer her child a perfect world and at the same time pursuing her career.
The main character is female – so what?
Byun Sung-hyun tells this chain of contradictions effortlessly and humanely, tensely and stylishly. He refuses to exoticize the role of women. Gil Bookson, played by Jeon Do-yeon, is attractive but doesn’t degenerate into a femme fatale. Eroticism, elegance and decadence suit her well, but this does not require any exaggerated cultivation of her gender.
And the fact that she sometimes threatens to despair when her daughter reaches puberty is not attributed to her as a maternal characteristic. Rather, it seems as if director and screenwriter Byun Sung-hyun has thrown a dice on gender. Now the main character is female, so what? The film subtly suggests that being a single parent is not gender specific, it is simply a reality of life that can also occur in the professional killer milieu. Nobody escapes the everyday thriller.
Byun Sung-hyun calmly strips off the straitjacket that Hollywood can’t free itself from these days. Either they make an effort there, although worth seeing, but still make an effort to comply with all identity-political demands and to carefully weave in transgender characters, power women and modern anxiety disorders, for example in series like “Sex Education” and “Euphoria”. Or the macho narrative is simply imposed on women in flat imitations like “Ocean’s Eight”. Byun Sung-hyun, on the other hand, simply depicts the present. And as a killer with a pubescent daughter in the house, she’s not without it either.
In “Kill Boksoon” Byun sung-hyun not only combines classic thriller elements with realistic role models of our time. He also refuses the Kulturkampf that has long been raging over the depiction of emancipation, and in doing so fulfills the claim that once stood at the beginning of all these struggles: a movie theaterwhich dares to tell stories beyond convention – and thus speaks to everyone, so to speak.
Kill Bok soon, South Korea 2023 – directed and written by Byun Sung-hyun. Camera: Cho Hyung-rae. Starring Jeon Do-yeon, Sol Kyung-gu, Esom, Koo Kyo-hwan. Netflixstreaming start March 31, 2023.