"Fighting for Freedom"
What You Need To Know:
The length of ASSASSINATION could definitely be trimmed a bit. Also, the first part is a little confusing until things get going. Even so, despite a lot of characters, the movie expertly holds things together by creating some compelling heroes fighting against some pretty loathsome villains. ASSASSINATION also has some strong moral elements about fighting for freedom against brutal tyranny. However, it has a light, godless humanist worldview overall. Finally, there’s a high body count, some graphic violence and brief foul language. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for ASSASSINATION.
(H, BB, PP, ACAC, LL, VVV, N, A, DD, MM) Light humanist worldview overall but with some strong moral elements supporting fighting for freedom against brutal tyranny in Southeast Asia and Korea in 1933 against the evil military, national socialist dictatorship of Japan at the time; 23 obscenities (mostly “h” words, some “d” words, a couple “s” words, and a few “b” words) and one light profanity; lots of strong and intense action violence with a high body count and sometimes having some graphic bloody images when people are shot, plus people shot dead, many gunfights, explosions, snipers, cloudy glass obscures woman being shot in head, but the blood spatter is shown, man loses a finger, pointblank shootings, assassinations, hitmen murder some gangsters for money, soldiers takes out two machine gun nests during a battle, etc.; no sex; upper male nudity in a couple scenes; alcohol use and brief drunkenness; smoking and villain hangs out in an opium den, and it’s implied he’s partaken of some opium earlier; and, two fathers are pretty evil, one father is a collaborator, who has his freedom-loving wife assassinated and (SPOILER) unknowingly kills one of his own daughters, another man collaborates with the Japanese and betrays the good guys and eventually tries to kill them, greed, and there’s a hitman character, but he decides to join the fight for freedom and help the good guys.
ASSASSINATION is a South Korean thriller about three assassins in 1933 sent to kill the Japanese governor-general and a Korean collaborator, but there is a double agent in the Korean rebel army who hires a hitman to kill them before they complete their mission. ASSASSINATION is a stirring action movie with all sorts of exciting, heroic derring-do, but some of the action is too bloody and there’s some foul language, so extreme caution is advised.
The movie opens in 1911 with the Korean collaborator, a fellow named Kang, meeting with the governor-general, a brutal tyrant named Kawaguchi. An assassin named Yem is sent to kill them, but he fails and is wounded. Kang learns that his wife is working as a spy for the Korean rebels and is actually hiding Yem in their house. Kang learns about his wife’s betrayal, and she flees with their twin baby daughters along with the wet nurse in two small carriages. The wife and the wet nurse split, with the wet nurse taking one of the twins with her. Meanwhile, Kang sends an assassin to murder his wife and take back his daughter. The assassin succeeds, but the wet nurse escapes with the other twin daughter.
Cut to 22 years later. Kawaguchi is still governor-general after he and his son brutally quelled a rebellion in Manchuria in China. Also, Kang is still collaborating with the Japanese in Seoul. Finally, after allegedly escaping prison in 1911, Yem is still spying for the Korean rebel army.
Yem is ordered to hire three people to assassinate Kawaguchi and Kang. He wires two men, a down-on-his luck military graduate and a comical explosives expert, and a female sniper named Ahn Ok-yun. The assassins will travel from Shanghai to Seoul to do the job.
However, Yem is actually working as a double agent for the Japanese. They order him to hire a hitman to assassinate the three good assassins, who are working for Korea’s freedom from the brutal Japanese. Yem hires a local hitman from America, who’s only known as Hawaii Pistol. Aiding the Pistol is his friend, Buddy, a cigar-chomping mustached older man, who’s really happy with the price Yem offers for the three new hit jobs.
Thus, begins what turns out to be a really exciting historical thriller with lots of twists and turns, some appealing heroes and some really dastardly villains.
The first part of ASSASSINATION is a little slow and confusing. However, once you figure out who’s who, the movie gets much better as it goes along. The twists and turns are surprising and, ultimately, emotionally powerful. Most viewers will end up rooting for the three heroes and the hitman, who decides to side with the Korean freedom fighters, much to the chagrin of his greedy partner.
The length of ASSASSINATION could definitely be trimmed a bit. Even so, although there are also a lot of characters, the filmmakers expertly hold things together by inserting a very nice plot twist involving the female sniper (played by the talented Jun Ji-yun), who turns out to be a very appealing character with heroic depth. She becomes the center of attention in the movie. Eventually, it’s her relationships with the other heroes and the villains that helps give the movie’s final action scenes a lot of compelling drama. As more and more of her tragic past is exposed, the viewer’s sympathy toward her and the viewer’s disgust toward the villains grows.
All that said, there’s almost constant action violence in ASSASSINATION, along with a high body count. Some of the violence is laced with some very bloody images, including some bloody wounds and some images of the effects of a few being shot in the head or other places. Furthermore, ASSASSINATION also contains some PG-rated foul language in the English subtitles of the DVD version MOVIEGUIDE® watched. Finally, while ASSASSINATION contains strong moral content that promotes fighting for freedom and opposition to tyranny (in the form of the fascist Japanese government that eventually bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941), the overall worldview is humanist. The good guys are fighting for their country and their freedom against brutal tyranny, but their reasons are secular, with no reference to God or His moral laws.
Therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for the South Korean historical thriller, ASSASSINATION.