The Director and Star of THE SWORDSMAN Return with THE KILLER

Enjoyable action and characters elevate a by-the-numbers plot

This week brings the release of South Korea’s new gun-fu action thriller The Killer from the director and star of the wildly acclaimed The Swordsman, Jae-Hoon Choi and Jang Hyuk.

Let’s clarify from the start — no, it’s not a remake or otherwise related to the John Woo film.

Protagonist Ui-gang (Hyuk), a retired hitman, gets saddled with an unexpected duty by his wife: to host her friend’s teenage daughter Yoon-ji while the ladies take a vacation. Uninterested in playing babysitter, he quickly agrees to the 17-year-old’s request to head out to a sleepover at a friend’s house instead.

But both girls are tricked into being snatched by a human trafficking and prostitution organization, forcing Ui-gang to mount a rescue operation. He gets in even bigger trouble than he bargained for when the vengeful traffickers turn the tables and sniff out his identity, forcing him to use his special set of skills to take them down.

If a lot of this sounds familiar, you’ve already caught on to my primary criticism of this new action thriller.

The Killer’s plot, much like its English title, is obviously nothing new to fans of action films or Korean cinema. You can absolutely see the influences and tropes of revenge and action favorites in its proceedings. There’s plenty here that will remind you of Taken, You Were Never Really Here, and Nobody, as a few examples — and even more pointedly, other badass Korean films like The Man From Nowhere. Perhaps the biggest influence here is John Wick with its “unretiring” hitman concept, neon-tinged-lighting, and mixed firearms and martial arts combat.

The film relies a great deal on tropes an established formulas, and that will certainly be the greatest hurdle or criticism for many viewers. But that said, these are good, solid formulas and tropes. There’s a reason we love watching them, and in the case of The Killer, it’s all executed very effectively in a slick, competently crafted, and handsomely shot film that even manages to pack in an unexpected twist.

Unlike, for example, The Divine Fury which mixes John Wick-esque action with its own brand of supernatural horror, The Killer arguably doesn’t do enough to differentiate it from its influences, nor match their greatness. But as a pleasing 90 minutes of new-but-familiar action cinema, it’s still an easy recommend for fans of the genre.

The Killer [더 킬러: 죽어도 되는 아이] releases in the US & Korea on July 13th.

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