What happens when you bring a topnotch sniper, one of the last graduates of the Independence Military School, an explosives specialist, a freelance assassin and his sidekick, and a double agent into an assassination plot? You get Assassination. This South Korean espionage action film co-written and directed by Choi Dong-hoon. Set in Korea in the year 1933, when the country was occupied by the Japanese army. Many warriors of the resistance where forced into the exile in China. Now they are trying to organize the fight from the distance. Now the resistance has learned that the highest commander of the Japanese army is going to visit Korea. They decide to take the chance and kill him by assassination. But the only sniper who is able to make that shot is Ahn Ok-yun, who is serving her time in the prison of Shanghai. The resistance agent Yem Sek-jin is set to get her and her comrades out, but his plan is offered to the Japanese by a traitor. Now, Ok-yun and her warriors not just have to flee from the Chinese prison, she also must face the Japanese army and a very special hit-man, assigned to take her down.
Assassination is loosely based on the real life assassination of Japanese Prime Minster Itō Hirobumi. Hirobumi arrived at the Harbin Railway Station on October 26, 1909 for a meeting with Vladimir Kokovtsov, a Russian representative in Manchuria. There An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist and independence activist, fired six shots, three of which hit Itō in the chest. He died shortly thereafter. His body was returned to Japan on the Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Akitsushima, and he was accorded a state funeral. With a budget of ₩18 billion (or US$16 million), the film was shot in both Shanghai and Seoul for five months. A special set of 13,500 square meters was created in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, to recreate the Seosomun Street in Gyeongseong. The rest of the filming took place at the Shanghai set in Chedun, which is 27 times the size of the Hapcheon set in South Gyeongsang Province.
The film features an A-list cast of some of Korea's celebrated stars including Jun Ji-hyun, Lee Jung-jae, Ha Jung-woo, Oh Dal-su, Cho Jin-woong, and Lee Geung-young. The cast gave superb performances despite their characters being far-fetched Hollywood nonsense and a poor imitation of a Sergio Leone film.
Assassination has dramatically opened a wider dialogue, helping to make the inarguable into the debatable. The film was beautifully made. However, the film failed to include compelling and realistic characters, and instead focusing on its use of laborious plotting and a flabby script. The film ultimately turns into a lumpy and overlong morality play on a failed Hollywood-style Action/Western/Thriller template. The fact that this film is constructed to endorse the exercise of assassins, to emphasize killer bravado and generate glee in frantic manifestations of death is, to my mind, a sharp indictment of it as so-called entertainment in this day.