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The Witch: Part 1: The Subversion (2018; aka, Manyeo), another awesomely shocking Korean action movie.

July 24, 2020

MY CALL: This film begins slow and interesting for 60 minutes, then shifts into full-tilt Matrix-meets-Wick-like action for the final 30 minutes… and it is brutal! Very stylish, edgy, hyper-violent movie.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Witch: For more brutal superhuman action, take a stab at Lucy (2014), Upgrade (2018) or The Night Comes for Us (2018).

The opening scene of this film reminded me of a more brutally dire iteration of Morgan (2016) or The Darkest Minds (2018) as a “modified” 8-year old girl escapes from the facility of her creation with no memory of her past or her identity. Ten years later, Koo Ja Yoon (Da-mi Kim) has been raised by the farmers who found her nearly dead and she has lived a completely normal life as their Tomboy daughter; basically like a female Clark Kent in Smallville, South Korea. And with that the tone of the film is very light during our introduction to Ja Yoon’s simple family life as a high schooler. In fact, the first hour is quite slow and relatively actionless while we get hints of Ja Yoon’s abilities and her past slowly catches up with her.

But after this slow (but certainly not uninteresting) hour, in just one scene the film shifts from a soft PG-13 to a very hard-boiled R complete with abrupt limb breaks and tandem face-splattering palm strikes. And once we entire the final act—once all the cards are on the table—things shift into a full-tilt action meltdown of heads splatting against walls, rapid stabbings to vital organs, bloody free fire gun fights, and some Mr. Anderson vs Agent Smith-inspired fighting.

The special effects and choreography are pretty slick. This is especially showcased when someone is thrown with Thanos-like strength into walls or launched through them with Hulk-thrusting kicks. And, boy, is the third act violence mean. People are getting dismantled with a gleeful smile and going down in brutal style.

Ultimately, we spend a looooong time quietly waiting for action to blossom in this film. Whether or not it’s worth it depends more on the type of viewer you are. If you expected Korean John Wick, then you might be woefully disappointed by the complete lack of action spanning long runs of this film. But if you are on board for the story and wish to collect occasional Matrix-meets-Wick-like action scenes even when not the major theme of the movie, then this will suit you better. But I will say, even if you are the full-throttle John Wick former and not the collector latter, the last 30 minutes packs in an entire movie’s worth of action. And whereas the sum of the action may pale to John Wick 1-3 (2014-2019) or The Night Comes for Us (2018), it’s still a LOT of awesome shoehorned in that half hour. So, writer and director Hoon-jung Park (I Saw the Devil, The Tiger, The Showdown) has wowed us yet again with his firm grasp on shocking violence.

This was titled as a part 1, so we all know there will be more and the film ends on an obvious cue as to what comes next.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2020 10:03 pm

    This looks awesome and I want to see it!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 2, 2020 10:02 am

      It is, and you should!


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