The Korea Herald


Kim Ok-bin takes female-led action to next level in ‘The Villainess’

By Hong Dam-young

Published : June 1, 2017 - 17:40

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With the blood-drenched action flick “The Villainess,” actress Kim Ok-bin may have raised the caliber of Korean female-led action sequences to the next level.

In the visceral revenge thriller directed by Jung Byung-gil, Kim plays a skilled assassin who shows no mercy or pity in the face of opponents. 

She shoots, stabs and kills with weapons ranging from long daggers to axes. After a violent and bloody showdown, she wipes blood off her face, completely emotionless. 

Actress Kim Ok-bin poses at a media event to promote the upcoming action flick “The Villainess” in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Actress Kim Ok-bin poses at a media event to promote the upcoming action flick “The Villainess” in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
“I think the movie has drawn the attention of many foreign media outlets due to the rarity of female-driven action flicks around the world,” said Kim at a media event in Seoul on Tuesday.

“After the film was featured at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, I received many interview requests from foreign media such as BBC and Reuters.”

In the film that premiered in the out-of-competition midnight category of the international film festival, the 30-year-old actress proves that she is a woman of action. It starts with a 10-minute point-of-view action sequence in which she makes a dramatic entrance, storming through the corridors of her rival’s headquarters and getting rid of her enemies. She even wields daggers while riding a motorcycle and leaps on to a speeding bus to bring down her nemesis.

Kim plays Sook-hee, who was raised and trained by gangsters to be a ruthless killer, after losing her father as a child. She marries her gangster boss and mentor Joong-sang, played by actor Shin Ha-gyun, and is later abandoned by her crew. She is then captured and recruited by the Korean Intelligence Agency as an undercover agent while pregnant, with a promise that she would be set free after working for the secret group for 10 years. After being trained as an undercover agent, Sook-hee is “reborn” with a new identity as a theatrical actress and has a new apartment to live in with her daughter. The story unfolds as Sook-hee goes out for full-on revenge upon realizing the deadly conspiracies surrounding her. 

A scene from “The Villainess” (Next Entertainment World) A scene from “The Villainess” (Next Entertainment World)
“Getting bruises and bleeding were routine while filming the action sequences. My chin even became square-shaped from maintaining Sook-hee’s grim face, for which I had to frown and clench my jaw all the time.”

Asked about her biggest struggle while shooting the movie, Kim answered portraying the sentimental side of Sook-hee was the most challenging, rather than carrying out the hard-core action sequences.

Although a deadly assassin, Sook-hee unleashes her emotional side after encountering Hyun-soo, played by actor Sung-jun, an undercover agent with a mission to win Sook-hee’s heart and shadow her. Sook-hee’s pivotal yet twisted relationship with her ex-lover Joong Sang is also a key element that keeps the tension.

“At first I wished Sook-hee could become a more vengeful and cold-blooded villainess. But living the life of Sook-hee made me realize that she had to become a killer to sustain herself,” Kim said.

“The underlying feeling of her behavior was sadness, and it was really tough to show the merciless killer’s complex emotions.”

To polish her action sequences, Kim is reported to have attended a stunt school for four months. It enabled her to handle more than 90 percent of her action scenes without a body double, according to Kim.

Director Jung also said the movie was a result of tireless efforts, sweat and blood, adding that its finale, in which Sook-hee brandishes daggers on a motorcycle to fight off an enemy at night on a highway, was his favorite moment.

“I am most satisfied with the motorcycle scene since it was unprecedented among other international action flicks,” Jung said.

“The Villainess,” which has been presold to 136 countries, will hit Korean theaters on June 8.

By Hong Dam-young (