BALLERINA is a dark South Korean revenge thriller that follows Ok-ju (Jeon Jong-seo), an unyielding former bodyguard who is on a mission to track down and exact revenge on Choi (Kim Ji-hoon), a sadistic criminal responsible for the death of her best friend Min-hee (Park Yu-rim).
Directed by Lee Chung-hyun, Ballerina is gritty right from the off. It opens with explosively violent scenes but is shot with a Blade Runner-esque visionary sophistication that gives it a certain delicacy.
Ok-ju has the deadly skills to strike out as a lone vigilante determined to serve her own sweet justice following the death of her only companion, who was also a talented ballerina. She proves in no uncertain terms that she is a badass assassin. Still, Ok-ju exudes a certain charm through deadpan facial expressions, rarely giving anything away, and will stop at nothing to avenge her friend’s death.
Think Atomic Blonde or Hanna with a more gutsy and flamboyant Asian twist. The Koreans takes these films to darker places and ultimately offer a bit more meat with your feed of action-packed staples.
Ok-Ju is a no-nonsense central character that is not to be trifled with. She has a cold and standoffish exterior which is complimented by an equally tough and resilient warrior spirit. You will be rooting for her and take great pleasure in the havoc she creates, especially as it is lowlife criminals she goes up against and puts some real manners on.
And if you have come to Chung-hyun’s film looking for pirouettes and battement, you’ll find them, but only in the dramatically choreographed fight scenes where merciless hand to hand combat proves to be the dance of choice.
You will witness graceful dives, stretches, jumps, and turns but always while our prancing brawlers are taking chunks out of each other with guns, knives, and even flamethrowers.
This is an exaggerated comic book caper that is light on its feet and offers fancy footwork aplenty.