Three years after storming the charts with the heist thriller The Thieves, Choi Dong-hoon returns with his most lavish and ambitious production to date. Filled with his trademarks, which is to say a parade of big stars, a wry sense of sense of humor and more set pieces than you can shake a stick at, Assassination is loaded to the gills, yet also threatens to burst at the seams.
In the 1930s, an agent from Korea’s government-in-exile, based in Shanghai, puts together a team to take out a pro-Japanese group back home. A top sniper is assigned with her crew while contract killer Hawaii Pistol and his partner have been hired to take them out.
Though Assassination’s setting is a tantalizing one, historical accuracy is not part of Choi’s mandate. That much is clear in the very first scene, as a rebel fighter stacks up the kind of body count you might see in a John Woo film. Veracity aside, extensive location shooting and intricate sets give the production a gorgeous period sheen, while Gianna Jun, Lee Jung-jae and Ha Jung-woo make for attractive and convincing leads.
Choi crafts an intricate if convoluted plot that stretches well past the two-hour mark, particularly as every loose end is stubbornly dealt with in a series of climaxes that suffer from diminishing returns. Assassination may not deliver on every count, but the action is as good as anything we’ve seen from Korea and the comic turns of Cho Jin-woong and Oh Dalsu are worth the price of admission alone.