2017 may well go down as the year of the kick-ass woman. Consider Anya Taylor Joy's Casey character in "Split", Gal Gadot's "Wonder Woman", Scarlett Johansson's "Ghost in a Shell", and Charlize Theron's "Atomic Blonde"... you can pretty much dismiss the concept of the weak screaming woman waiting for the man to come to her rescue.


Now comes South Korea's Ok-bin Kim as a lethal lady in Byung-gil Jung's "The Villainess" (original title "Aknyeo"). I'm not sure if that is a direct translation, but you could also call this "One Tough Babe." In the opening scene she shoots, slices and dices her way through an entire army of men in a seat-of-your-pants POV that literally rocks.

Sook-hee (Kim) is has been trained since she was a little girl to be a killer and try to contain her emotions while doing so. After witnessing the murder of her Chinese mentor that part became easier. Soon she moved to South Korea to work as an agent for ten years. Her disguise is as an actress.


What she doesn't know is that she is pregnant and the agency, led by Chief Kwon (Seo-hyeong Kim) plans to hold on to her until Sook-hee fulfills her obligation.


Another agent - Hyun-soo (Jun Sung) - takes a liking to her and they eventually fall in love; or as in love as to killers can get. But the daught likes him and he fills in on the babysitting. What she doesn't know is that Hyun-soo is under orders to get close to her and keep an eye on her. The objective is to keep her from finding out certain hidden truths about her background that she doesn't understand.


As she inevitably discovers the truths anyway, more bodies go flying through the air, more blood is spilled, more butts are kicked by Sook-hee. The action is practically non-stop except while developing the relationship between Sook-hee and Hyun-soo.


Nobody is going to win Oscars for of their performances, but that doesn't disrupt the sheer pleasure it offers audiences of the actioner.


"The Villainess" is a fun romp with plenty of gratuitous violence. It continues the 2017 movie trend of powerful lead actresses, kicking butt and taking names.   -- GEOFF BURTON