The Huntresses: Filmart Review
Director Park Je-hyun returns after a long hiatus with a girl-powered action comedy romp.
For those who may be pining for the glory days of Johnnie To's The Heroic Trio or even a little taste of Charlie’s Angels, The Huntresses could be just the crazy tonic that’s needed to sate that thirst. Loaded with anachronisms, Tarantino style musical jolts and every narrative contrivance possible, Park Je-hyun’s period martial comedy The Huntresses is a bit of old fashioned genre nonsense that’s entertaining and has no pretensions to anything else (a good drinking game is in here somewhere). Park is still best known for unofficially kicking off the Korean Wave by writing 1999’s Shiri, and the material here affords him an unchallenging return to filmmaking after a 10-year hiatus. An appealing cast and an easy, formulaic story should result in moderate box office success in the region; any overseas interest is likely to be concentrated in genre festivals.
Jin-ok (Ha Ji-won, Haeundae), Hong-dan (Gang Ye-won, Quick) and Ga-bi (relative newcomer Son Ga-in) form a trio of bounty hunters working under a Bosley-ish father figure, Mu-myeong (Ko Chang-seok) in Joseon Dynasty Korea. He assigns the bounty. They go and get it. Jin-ok’s weapon of choice is some kind of murderous yo-yo, Hong-dan is a hand-to-hand type, and Ga-bi is the team’s archer (because ever since The Hunger Games no action movie can be absent an archer). With the neighboring Qing knocking on the door, an important envoy to the Joseon king, Gong-gu, has gone missing with a crucial piece of technology—a stauroscope to be precise. Hired by the nefariously mustached Kim Ja-hun (Choi Seong-min) to find both, things start to go sideways when the envoy is killed anyway and the Huntresses and Bosley become the targets.
That doesn’t even begin to explain the breadth of the film’s overstuffed plot; the sheer amount of things going on in The Huntresses is mind-boggling. There’s a bumbling police constable with a crush on Ga-bi, a long-lost childhood protector-turned-traitor-turned-protector for Jin-ok in addition to her tale of woe where she saw her father murdered. Before you can load a quiver, the girls find themselves on the trail of precisely this murderer, and along the way we’re treated to some unsubtle empowerment passages, pigeon CPR, bad guys that can’t hit the side of a barn with cannonballs (natch) and some gratuitous belly dancing.
Which doesn’t mean any of this is a bad thing. Though the film has a television series feel and pacing (the opening credit sequence doesn’t help) and none of the leads is physically commanding enough to completely sell the idea, the entire cast appears game and the effects are the quick and dirty, lowbrow type that are more charming than distracting. It’s one of “those” movies, the kind where the heroines wear white, roll around in the dirt, blow up buildings and get into fights but their outfits remain pristine white. To nitpick plot holes, corny performances (of course the bad guy has a classic bad guy laugh) and imperfect effects is to miss the gloriously silly point.
Producer: Romeo Noh, Byun Jong-eun
Director: Park Je-hyun
Cast: Ha Ji-won, Gang Ye-won, Son Ga-in, Ko Chang-seok, Joo Sang-wook, Song Sae-byeok, Choi Seong-min, Lee Yoo-joon
Screenwriter: Kim Ga-young, Kang Chul-kyu, Kim Ba-da
Executive Producer: You Jeong-hun
Director of Photography: Yoon Hong-sik
Production Designer: Ha Song-ho
Music: Hwang Sang-joon
Costume Designer: Jung Kyung-hee
Editor: Choi Min-young
International Sales: Showbox/Mediaplex
No rating, 107 minutes