Netflix’s New Korean Film ‘Kill Boksoon’ Puts Unique ‘Twist’ on Typical Killer Action Movies
Kill Boksoon—Netflix’s gripping new K-drama film about a female professional assassin, which made its world premiere at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday—aims to “put a twist” on “cliché” killer action films widely seen today.
The new Korean movie sees assassin Gil Boksoon—played by veteran Korean actress Jeon Do-yeon who previously earned a best actress award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival—face an ultimatum of having to kill or be killed, as her contract with the assassin agency comes up for renewal.
Speaking at Q&A panel in Seoul—where an exclusive extended clip of the film was unveiled to Newsweek and other select media at Netflix Korea’s headquarters ahead of its global premiere—the film’s director Byun Sung-hyun said he wanted to break away from anchoring his latest movie around a typical revenge plot.
He said the backdrop of a killer being professionally employed by a company has been “quite commonly used” since the release of the John Wick film series. Especially if the child of the assassin gets kidnapped or killed, the employee then attempts to take down “the big guys” behind the organization.
The director said he wanted to “put a twist” on this “cliché” storyline and “portrayal of contract killers” and focus on the story of Boksoon and her daughter. Boksoon leads a double life as a legendary assassin and as a mother to a teenager who knows nothing of her profession.
Byun said he wanted to portray a story about a mother and daughter where “both of their lives are filled with secrets—secrets the mom wants to keep from her daughter and vice versa. I wanted to follow the story of communication or lack thereof.”
He also wanted to “highlight drama within the action” sequences to take advantage of the film’s cast of the “best performers one could find in the industry,” including renowned Korean actor Sul Kyung-gu. He was seen recently in the Netflix film Yaksha: Ruthless Operations alongside Squid Game‘s Emmy-nominated actor Park Hae-soo.
Byun said each action scene followed a “particular concept” and he thought most about how to portray “the essence” of the characters in these action sequences, which can’t help but lend the feel of the Kill Bill films by Quentin Tarantino.
One of the most captivating scenes in the film sees Jeon in a showdown with a trainee assassin, using just a marker pen as her weapon of choice in a dynamic, nail-biting fight sequence.
While Jeon has dabbled in action films before, Kill Boksoon marks her first lead action role, which required a lot of prep work in terms of physical training, the director said. The way the film was shot required many of the action sequences to be done by the actors themselves, as it entailed long takes rather than shorter shots taken from various angles.
Byun said the title was “a parody” of Kill Bill, which is one of his favorite movies. It is also a pun on the Korean surname Gil, which sounds like the word “kill.” The director added that he also wanted to reflect the two sides of Boksoon, as a killer and a mother, in the double meaning of the title.
Asked whether Jeon was the first actress that came to mind for the role of Boksoon, the director said: “Rather, the story began with her or from her.” Byun said he approached Jeon, who has been his “favorite” actress for years, about doing an action film together, before he wrote the script.
The director said he was inspired by a lot of the conversations Jeon had with her actual daughter in real life. Byun said he “intentionally drew” parallels between Jeon being a mom/actress and Boksoon being a killer/mom and injected that into her character.
The dichotomy of Boksoon’s character is also portrayed in the way the movie was shot. The director said: “You’ll notice there is a focus on the right side of Boksoon’s face when emphasizing her motherly character.” The camera focuses on the left side of her face when portraying her killer persona.
He also focused on the colors of the film, including a certain color theme to portray Boksoon’s perspective of her daughter and her vision for the kind of daughter she wants to raise her to be. “We made sure there was a particular contrast between these colors,” Byun said.
The latest original Netflix film marks Byun’s second showcase at a major global international film festival, following the screening of the 2017 film The Merciless at the Cannes Film Festival.
Kill Boksoon will be available for streaming on Netflix on March 31.