Kill Boksoon kicks off Netflix’s original Korean film slate for 2023. The action-packed crime movie first premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival’s Berlinale Special section in February 2023. Now, it’s releasing exclusively on Netflix on March 31. Kill Boksoon is helmed by actor-turned-director Byun Sung-hyun, who also worked on notable action films like The Merciless (2017) and Kingmaker (2022).
Ahead of its release on Netflix, Lifestyle Asia was invited to attend the press conference and roundtable discussion in Seoul with the cast and director of Kill Boksoon. The Kill Boksoon cast revealed exclusive behind-the-scenes stories and trivia for the first time. We’ve rounded up six main takeaways for you to know about the upcoming Korean film.
Here’s your first look at Netflix’s ‘Kill Boksoon’
A dramatic storyline
Kill Boksoon follows Gil Bok-soon, a woman leading a double life—she’s a mother of a teenage daughter but, at the same time, also a legendary professional killer at the top-tier killing agency, MK Ent. She boasts a 100 per cent killing success rate, but despite being a seasoned assassin, she struggles with parenting. Just as she decides to retire to focus on raising her daughter, she discovers that quitting the life she’s ever known isn’t as easy as it seems.
A star-studded cast
Kill Boksoon boasts a stellar lineup, led by decorated actress Jeon Do-yeon as Gil Bok-soon. The film marks Jeon’s first foray into a full-fledged action genre. She was most recently seen in the Korean drama, Crash Course in Romance which was also shown on Netflix. Jeon is the first Korean actress to win the prestigious Best Actress award at the 60th Cannes Film Festival.
Playing the head of MK Ent, Cha Min-kyu is Sol Kyung-gu. He describes his character as melodramatic and having a “blind love” for Bok-soon. Sol is best known for films like Peppermint Candy (1999) and Public Enemy (2000). Meanwhile, actress Esom takes on the character of Cha Min-hee, the director of MK Ent and also Min-kyu’s younger sister. She says her character is “simple but unpredictable.” Esom previously starred in Scarlet Innocence (2014) and Samjin Company English Class (2020).
Actress Kim Si-a plays Gil Jae-young, Bok-soon’s teenage daughter who hides a secret. For the young actress, it’s the first time she’s ever taken on this kind of character. She appeared in Miss Baek (2018) and Netflix titles, Kingdom: Ashin of the North (2021) and The Silent Sea (2021).
Finally, Koo Kyo-hwan is taking on the role of Han Hee-sung, a low-ranked assassin. In the movie, Koo;s character longs for recognition in the contract-killing industry. Koo worked on films like Peninsula (2020) and Escape to Mogadishu and Netflix drama D.P. (2021).
Director Byun called Kill Boksoon a tribute to Sol and Jeon, two actors he admires. The film came about when Sol was working with Jeon for the film Birthday. He called Byun to set, being a long-time fan. During that meeting, he asked Jeon if she would be interested in working with him and much to his surprise, she said yes!
“I really thought long and hard about what kind of movie I can work on together with Do-yeon. She’s been in so many great movies, most of them being quite dark and deep,” he says. “I didn’t want to fight head-on. I wanted to go around it. That’s why I chose an action-genre film. I don’t think she was in many action movies so I thought I would write (one),” he added.
It’s safe to say that Jeon is the inspiration for the film. Byun simply replaced “acting in her life with killing” as he felt “the mom Jeon Do-yeon and the actress Jeon Do-yeon are two very different people”.
Saying ‘yes’ to doing ‘Kill Boksoon’
Jeon revealed that it’s the first time she agreed to do a film “without reading the scenario.” She said, “I actually want to try a lot of different genres but chances don’t come that easy.”
Meanwhile, for Sol who is collaborating with director Byun (and Jeon) for the third time, saying yes was easy. “There was really no reason to say no. I’m a fan of director Byun’s films,” he shared. Byun added that he didn’t even have to ask Sol if he wanted to be in the film, he just called him and said, “You’ll be doing this role.”
The other cast member, Esom also agreed to do the film without even reading the script. She gushed, “I loved the interesting theme of a female killer, as well as the fact that I get to work with director and actors that I really admire.” On the other hand, Kim loved her character, Jae-young and was “drawn to her” so she wanted to try how to “play the character when she’s so different from her.”
Actor Kyoo also expressed his admiration for Byun’s work. “As I was reading the lines in the scenario, they were just so fun to read and I was dying to know how life will be breathed into these actions and words,” he said.
Making the daring action sequences
Much like director Byun’s previous works, Kill Boksoon has some heavy-hitting action sequences—much more than usual. To prepare, the actors trained for about three to four months in action school. For Jeon, there were more action scenes than she anticipated. She expressed wanting to do almost all of the scenes, but it was “physically impossible.”
“I was quite scared and unsure, but I kept telling myself that I must pull it off no matter what,” she said. Director Byun’s style is to do long takes when it comes to the action, which “gave her catharsis when she finished a scene.” Sol added that Jeon “tried to overcome her own limits.” He conveyed his admiration by assuring and tellig her that “nobody other than you can pull this role off.”
While Sol is not a novice when it comes to action films, it’s the first time he used a robot arm. He shared, “If we went overboard, there were good chances that we would be hit by the robot arm and that is something we did not want so we were quite nervous at first. But later, it was remarkably interesting.” Koo added that doing the action scenes was more “like choreography than an action set-piece” and likened it to doing a team dance.
A metaphorical movie with hidden messages
Despite being a film with a very “unrealistic story,” Kill Boksoon has messages that any viewer can relate to. For instance, director Byun makes a point for each character to have some kind of growth whether it is coming-of-age for Bok-soon or a lesson for Jae-young.
He also incorporated a lot of metaphors for real-life issues like the monopoly in the world of assassins and the generational shift from veteran killers to up-and-coming assassins. “I wanted to use this to tell the story of what is going on with our society these days, especially with the younger generation.” Kill Boksoon is full of irony, wherein we see a mother raising her child yet partaking in all the killing. The movie also takes us deep into the character of another merciless man who empathises with those he loves.
He teases that “the movie contains a lot of metaphors and symbols. Watching it more than once will really help viewers to understand those hidden messages.”
Watch the trailer for Kill Boksoon below and mark your calendars for March 31!
(Featured and hero image credit: Noh Ju-han/Netflix)