Netflix’s Kill Boksoon and Wicksploitation

Netflix’s most recent South Korean action assassination flick, Kill Boksoon, will inevitably be compared to the John Wick franchise. Indeed, it already has. To quote The Hollywood Reporter, who seem somewhat confused about the difference between then and than, “If John Wick were a middle-aged single mom whose teenage daughter was about to come out as a lesbian, than she would be something like Gil Boksoon.” That a Korean production would find inspiration in the American action franchise is no wonder either: the third John Wick, for reference, overperformed for an import by playing in 848 theaters in Korea. And, in the plot structure and the underpinnings of the world-building, there’s something to the comparison. 

In the grand scheme of things, both Netflix (Gunpowder MilkshakeKate) and South Korea (The VillainessDeliver Us From Evil, even Special Delivery) have been on the hunt for their own Wick for some time now, so the South Korean Netflix original makes perfect sense. The John Wick team is even remaking Lee Jeong-beom’s The Man From Nowhere, which shares many similarities with 87Eleven’s first megahit that would come four years later.

Like the world of the Continental in Wick, the Republic of Korea appears ruled by assassination companies. According to the production team, the idea was to create “a parallel Seoul in a parallel universe.” Gil “Kill” Boksoon (the master actor Jeon Do-yeon), in addition to being a mother to the coming-out lesbian Gil Jae-young (Kim Si-a), works as an “A” grade killer for MK Ent., the undisputed heavyweight and literal rule-setter in the industry. The other “event planning” companies, following the lead of MK’s Cha Min-kyu (Sul Kyung-gu, who ushered in the Korean New Wave with Peppermint Candy), abide by a code of three: 1) do not kill minors, 2) all “shows” must be company sanctioned, and 3) you must attempt all shows sanctioned by your company. To break any rule is guaranteed suicide.

Continue reading at the Boston Hassle.

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