This is a silly movie. The first we see of leading lady Jin-ok (played by Ha Ji-won), she is doing a very bad job crossdressing as a man, wearing the most preposterous fake moustache I've ever seen. This is deliberate. Believe me, this movie makes an excessive effort in the wardrobe department. The entire final act of the movie is a visual treat of extras wearing absurd historical costumes from countries that appear to have been selected at random. The white suits the leads wear for the final act look horribly impractical for the job they're supposed to be doing. But who am I to argue about fashion?
Now, as to the plot...well, let's see. The bad guy has found a doohickey that he wants to sell to the Chinese. And so "The Huntresses" have to step in to put a stop to put his nefarious plans. Also there's something about Jin-ok's tragic past thrown in there. I had trouble figuring out what, exactly, particularly given the final plot twist that makes almost no sense considering the flashbacks and character reactions we'd seen up until that point.
There's a lot of this stuff too. Any time "The Huntresses" gets enough energy to almost get going as a passable action comedy, it's time for more dramatic hesitations and revelations about Jin-ok's tragic past. The movie would have been much better served by, say, some sort of explanation as to how our three leads got together in the first place. Not to mention what their bumbling mentor Moo-myeong (played by Ko Chang-seok) is supposed to be bringing to the team.
So, the movie's attempt at an engaging emotional plotline is a failure. How about the action? It's...all right, I guess. I could figure out what was going on. But there's no sense of internal logistics. Characters will be together one scene, separated the next, completely elude their pursuers one scene, be surrounded the next, daytime one minute, nighttime the next. People are constantly getting snuck up on out of nowhere, even on totally flat land. Empty rooms suddenly becomes filled with laborers.
Hopefully I've made this clear- from an action standpoint, most of these scenes don't even look sequential. It's like there was exactly one shoot per scene, each one from a completely different version of the script. The yo-yo that features in the opening seems important- but aside from the opener and closer Jin-ok just fights with rather uninspired swordplay. The scene transitions have more creativity than the actual fight scenes.
The comedy? Again, not great. I suppose it meets the bare minimum. The problem is most of the jokes fall flat by either being too predictable or just not going far enough. The best running gag involves the disguises one character comes up with- but after these jokes stop the character in question for the most part becomes pointless. I'm not even sure why he's in the movie except to provide an obligatory love interest for one of the actual leads.
I guess I can maybe give credit for a tasteful blackface joke? The character in question just has slightly darkened skin, and the actual black people in this movie (extras not characters) are portrayed more as random visitors having a good time than anything that could be called a stereotype. But personally, I consider "movie is not particularly racist" to be a rather weak compliment. As a whole "The Huntresses" really just isn't worth the effort.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Huntresses""
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