At The Movies: Females fight back in Kill Boksoon, Blueback

Jeon Do-yeon (right) in Kill Boksoon. PHOTO: NETFLIX

Kill Boksoon (M18)

137 minutes, premieres on Friday on Netflix

3 stars

The story: South Korean star Jeon Do-yeon – 2007 Cannes Film Festival’s best actress for Secret Sunshine – inhabits the title role of an assassin who is the best in the profession, but all thumbs as a single mum parenting an angsty teen.

The above plot summary suggests a screwball actioner centred on the heroine’s work-life balance, when the Netflix production Kill Boksoon is, in fact, played straight as an Asian cinema genre piece.

Boksoon hides her day job from her schoolgirl daughter (Kim Si-a) who is, for her part, concealing her sexuality from everyone. The domestic drama is drab.

Writer-director Byun Sung-hyun (The Kingmaker, 2022) is more invested in the killing business. And a corporatised business it is, like a Seoul chapter of the High Table from the John Wick franchise (2014 to present), comprising unionised contractors bound by a code of conduct.

With her 100 per cent kill rate, Boksoon is unequalled among her peers and Jeon’s performance exudes polished self-possession. She is the prized asset of MK Enterprise, where her chairman (Sol Kyung-gu) has tender feelings for her.

Nevertheless, she finds herself targeted by rivals and associates alike after an aborted assignment.

The betrayals build to a bar-room ambush of shattering martial arts violence.

The wittiness of the flying chopsticks and beer bottles is matched by Boksoon’s opening-act duel with yakuza, which has her Japanese opponent wielding a mighty katana against her $30 Walmart hammer.

Boksoon obviously survives to continue an overlong movie that is bookended by these two rousingly choreographed fights.

Jeon Do-yeon inhabits the title role of an assassin who is the best in the profession but all thumbs as a single mum parenting an angsty teen.  PHOTO: NETFLIX

Hot take: An adequate diversion should John Wick: Chapter 4 be sold out at the multiplex.

Blueback (PG)

Radha Mitchell in Blueback. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

103 minutes, opens on Thursday

3 stars

The story: Marine biologist Abby (Mia Wasikowska) is called home to the West Australian coastal town of her childhood when her mother has a stroke. Her return triggers memories of her friendship with a giant wild blue grouper she names Blueback.

An adaptation of Tim Winton’s 1997 acclaimed novella, Blueback unfolds in extended flashbacks as both an intimate mother-daughter drama and an empowering coming-of-age tale.

It is through their bond that headstrong widowed mum Dora (Radha Mitchell) imparts to Abby a love of nature which becomes the younger woman’s calling.

She introduces Abby to diving on her eighth birthday. This is how Abby meets Blueback.

Later, when illegal fishing operators begin encroaching on their serene bay to plunder endangered species, Dora organises community protests, while a teenage Abby (Ilsa Fogg) takes on the local council and poachers. She puts herself in danger to protect Blueback.

You might be inspired to do the same once you behold the crystalline beauty of the reef’s aquatic life in Australian director Robert Connolly’s underwater cinematography. Blueback himself, with his smoochy lips, is no less adorable for being mechanised puppetry. “Take a good close look at what we’re fighting for,” someone urges.

The script has no time to be subtle. This slight but engaging eco-family film needs to impress upon you that the marine ecosystem is dying from climate change and destructive commerce. It is a universal all-ages call to environmental activism, because the passion of just one girl does make a difference.

Hot take: Parents, you, too, can teach your children to value the natural world by taking them to this meaningful movie.

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