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Lee Si-young says ‘No Mercy’ is different kind of action flick

The plot of “No Mercy,” a new action film starring Lee Si-young, naturally draws comparison to another action film featuring a vengeful master hand-to-hand combatant who has a soft spot for a solitary person under protection.

The “Taken” series may pop up more frequently for the audience, but the name buzzing among Korean cinephiles is “The Man from Nowhere” (2009).

“No Mercy” / Joy N Cinema
“No Mercy” / Joy N Cinema

“Comments about (our film being) a female version of ‘The Man from Nowhere’ is understandable. But we focused more on the ‘raw’ aspects,” said director Im Gyeong-taek during a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. “We show the inner struggles of a woman who has to go up against evil, and the raw actions of destroying it.”

Lee plays a former bodyguard highly trained in martial arts, whose relationship with her sister Eun-hye -- Park Se-wan -- is the most important thing in her life after the death of her parents. She seeks to lead a normal life after serving a prison sentence for excessive use of force on the job, but her wish is thwarted by the mysterious disappearance of her sister.

Lee said the action of the film was what appealed most to her.

Using force comes naturally to the actress, whose stint with boxing began in 2010 and led to multiple titles at the amateur stage. She no longer boxes competitively.

Director Im said the actress did not use stunt doubles, CGI or wires in making the film.

Those who participated in the film seemed keen for it not to be seen as yet another film copying previous works. Another action film that comes to mind is “The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion” that came out earlier in the month, as it also stars an imposing female lead.

Lee admitted to having looked up films that deal with similar subjects, but said these action films have different subgenres.

“Those movies are strong in the martial arts perspective. In-ah is skilled but she is not someone who inflicts violence. She is socially disadvantaged, and steps up when nobody else helps,” she said.

However, it is unclear what difference she is talking about, as the premise of “The Man from Nowhere” is very similar to “No Mercy” in terms of the socially disadvantaged stepping up to a task when nobody else is helping.

Lee described her film as “sensitive action,” saying the film does not have a ton of wire-using, elaborate action scenes.

“Rather than focusing on the fancy techniques (of action), we chose more ‘analogue’ action that can overpower and kill the other person. One that was grounded in reality,” she said.

The director said he wished to avoid overacting, sticking to more grounded action.

“In reality, there are so many hurtful incidents and victims, which just stops after hurting people. Our film has the protagonist punishing those responsible. The simple nature of the emotions helped me focus on my anger,” Lee said.

Lee Joon-hyuk, who enjoyed success with his role in the “Along with the God” series, plays a mysterious man who feels inspired after meeting In-ah and her sister.

The movie opens in late December. 

By Yoon Min-sik (