The title for this period piece is as accurate as can be. It takes place in the 1930s when Japan was ruling Korea. A small group of Korean independence fighters are tasked to assassinate a pro-Japanese Korean businessman and a Japanese commander. The head of the group of assassins, An Ok-Yun (Jun Ji-Hyun aka Gianna Jun) is an expert sniper but it is quickly revealed that the businessman is her father. To complicate matters, there is a traitor who hires a couple of contract killers, Hawaii Pistol (Ha Jung Woo) and his partner to go after Ok-Yun.
The acting talent is top-notch as is the director who has had many commercial successes. This movie does not disappoint in giving audiences heart pounding action sequences in various locales in Seoul and Shanghai that are either beautiful to look at or dark and atmospheric. The staging and lighting is expertly to done to evoke either a Western or a Film Noir mood depending on the location. Camera work is also well done with interesting movements that keep the shootouts in frame and exciting without obscuring it. Given the time period, the action is overly bombastic but it’s not overdone so it’s easy to suspend disbelief. Ha Jung Woo in one sequence seemed to channel Chow Yun Fat with some slick moves and double gun action. Jun Ji-Hyun handles the action very well as does Lee Jung-Jae.
The story does the job, nothing complicated. It’s coherent if a bit predictable. Things do not always go as planned but some fortunate turn of events happen too easily or conveniently for the assassins, particularly towards the climax. But it does set up a wildly entertaining final shootout. The Japanese are just there to be mowed downed and are never portrayed in any way other than as bad guys. Don’t expect any subtle political commentary or deep character moments. There are some moments of humor, which are well placed in the film and not distracting. As an action film, this is very solid popcorn fare and the Fantasia audience loved it.
Seen in the theater at Fantasia 2015