The Villainess

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The Villainess
The Villainess.jpg
Film poster
Revised RomanizationAknyeo
Directed byJung Byung-gil
Written byJung Byung-gil
Jung Byeong-sik
Produced byMoon Young-hwa
StarringKim Ok-vin
Shin Ha-kyun
CinematographyPark Jung-hoon
Edited byHeo Sun-mi
Music byKoo Ja-wan
Independent Filmmakers Group BFG
Distributed byNext Entertainment World
Release dates
  • May 21, 2017 (2017-05-21) (Cannes)
  • June 8, 2017 (2017-06-08) (South Korea)
  • August 25, 2017 (2017-08-25) (United States)
Running time
129 minutes
CountrySouth Korea
Box officeUS$8.8 million[1]

The Villainess (Korean: 악녀, romanizedAk Nyeo) is a 2017 South Korean action film directed by Jung Byung-gil, starring Kim Ok-vin.[2] The film had its world premiere at the 70th Cannes Film Festival in May 2017.[3][4][5]

According to the director and writer, the movie was inspired by the European film La Femme Nikita (1990), which he had seen at the age of 10.[6][7]


Sook-hee is a highly skilled assassin, who enters a hallway and kills numerous people before being surrounded by the cops, where she is drugged and taken to South Korea's intelligence agency, where they provide her with a plastic surgery. To give her a new start, they also fake her death and assign her a new name: Chae Yeon-soo. Yeon-soo tells that she does not care to live, but they tell her she is pregnant and offer her to train herself as their agent, in exchange for her freedom. Yeon-soo accepts where she gives birth to a daughter named Eun-hye. The agency's leader Kwon-sook, sends Yeon-soo on her first assignment. Sook-hae learns that the target she killed turns out to be the father of a young girl. This triggers her haunted memories of her past. A 7 year old Sook-hee had witnessed her father getting killed, while hidden under the bed.

Due to circumstances, she was trained as a killing machine by an assassin named Lee Joong-sang. After many years, a 20 year-old Sook-hae tried to kill Jang-Chun, who assumes that he is responsible for her father's death. However, she is captured and while beating her, Jang-Chun confesses that he did not kill her father. Joong-sang arrived, where he shot him and freed Sook-hee. Sook-hee and Joong-sang fell in love and got married, where she tells that she was willing to let go of her thirst for vengeance if she can get married and live a normal life. Seeing that his trained assassin would no longer be useful, Joong-sang sets up an act. While on their honeymoon, he faked an act of saving a gang member called Choi Chun-Mo and staged his own death. When Sook-hee learns about Joong-sang's death, she lost her mind and gone on a killing rampage, where she took out a whole gang that was known to hate Joong-sang. Joong-sang expected her to die by killing his rivals, but they are no match to her.

In the present time, Yeon-soo completes her first assignment, where she is provided with an apartment to share with Eun-hye. Unknown to Yeon-soo, Kwon-sook places an agent in the apartment next door, who is Jung Hyun-soo. Hyun-soo is to befriend Yeon-soo and provide updates about her activities. While on a mission with another agent Min-ju, Yeon-soo is caught stealing a phone. In the ensuing fight, Min-ju is killed and the stolen phone has documents about Choi Chun-Mo and the agency is worried that since Yeon-soo knows about him, they assume her to be a double agent. Hyun-soo comforts her and they soon falls for each other. The agency wants Yeon-soo to kill her next target from a wedding catering company, so they arrange a wedding between her and Hyun-soo. During the wedding, Yeon-soo aims a rifle out a window and to her astonishment, finds out her target is Joong-sang.

Yeon-soo fails to kill Joong-sang, who orders to backtrack the location from which the shots came and identifies Yeon-soo as Sook-hee. Joong-song meets with her and reveals that Hyun-soo is actually an undercover agent. Joong-sang's gang meets Hyun-soo and Eun-hye. Hyun-soo reveals about Eun-hye being Joong-sang's daughter, hoping for all the killing to stop. Joong-sang tells that he doesn't care and plants a bomb near them. As Yeon-soo reaches her apartment, the bomb explodes, killing Hyun-soo and Eun-hye. Enraged, Yeon-soo tracks down Joong-sang to a parking garage and kills his men. She confronts Joong-sang, who escapes to the street and meets with his remaining henchmen. They all speed off in a shuttle bus. Yeon-soo chases after them, where she catches up and makes the bus to crash. Yeon-soo finally kills Jeong-sang with an axe, where she smiles with a grim smile after being surrounded by the cops.




The Villainess was released in South Korean cinemas on June 8, 2017.

According to the distributor Next Entertainment World the film was sold prior to the local release to 115 countries including North America, South America, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Taiwan and Philippines.[8] Later it was sold to additional territories which includes Japan, China, Singapore, India increasing to a total of 136 countries worldwide.[9]


The Villainess received a four-minute standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival.[10] The film was also screened at the 16th New York Asian Film Festival which was held from June 30 to July 16, 2017. At the festival, the film received the Daniel E. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema.[11]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 85 reviews with an average rating of 6.84/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Villainess offers enough pure kinetic thrills to satisfy genre enthusiasts -- and carve out a bloody niche for itself in modern Korean action cinema."[12] Review aggregator website Metacritic gave the film a rating of 64 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
16th New York Asian Film Festival Daniel E. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema The Villainess Won [14]
21st Fantasia International Film Festival GURU Prize for Best Action Feature Film Silver [15]
26th Buil Film Awards Best Actress Kim Ok-bin Nominated [16]
Best Cinematography Park Jung-hoon Won
1st The Seoul Awards Best Actress Kim Ok-bin Nominated [17]
Best Supporting Actress Kim Seo-hyung Nominated
54th Grand Bell Awards Best Actress Kim Ok-bin Nominated [18]
Best Lighting Lee Hae-won Nominated
Best Cinematography Park Jung-hoon Won
Best Editing Heo Sun-mi Nominated
Technical Award The Villainess Won
38th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Cinematography and Lighting Nominated [19]
Best Technical Achievement - Stunts Won
Best Actress Kim Ok-bin Nominated
18th Busan Film Critics Awards Technical Award Park Jung-hoon Won [20]
Kwon Kwi-deok Won
54th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actress Kim Ok-bin Nominated [21]
23rd Chunsa Film Art Awards Won [22]

TV series[edit]

In July 2021, it was announced a TV series based on the film is in development with Amazon with writer Francisca Hu writing and executive producing the pilot.[23]


  1. ^ "Aknyeo (2017)". The Numbers. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  2. ^ ""The Villainess" Kim Ok-bin Swinging Her Swords". HanCinema. April 27, 2017.
  3. ^ "Two Korean Films Invited to Compete at Cannes Film Festival". HanCinema. April 14, 2017.
  4. ^ "THE VILLAINESS Singled Out for Terrific Action at Cannes". May 25, 2017.
  5. ^ "Korean Film to be Remade into U.S. TV Series".
  6. ^ Dunlevy, T'Cha; July 12, Montreal Gazette Updated; 2017 (2017-07-12). "Fantasia film fest: The Villainess is more Nikita than Kill Bill | Montreal Gazette". Retrieved 2020-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Q&A: Writer/Director Byung-gil Jung Talks 'The Villainess'". Modern Horrors. 2017-08-22. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  8. ^ "'The Villainess' presold to 115 countries". Yonhap News Agency. May 24, 2017.
  9. ^ "Korean action film presold to 136 countries". Yonhap News Agency. May 30, 2017.
  10. ^ Jeong Yu-jin (May 22, 2017). "[N1★칸] '악녀' 김옥빈 처절 액션, 칸 홀렸다…4분 기립 박수 :: 네이버 TV연예". News1 (in Korean).
  11. ^ Jeremy Kay (June 5, 2017). "'The Villainess' to close New York Asian Film Festival". Screen Daily.
  12. ^ "The Villainess (Ak-Nyeo) (2017)". Retrieved 28 May 2020 – via
  13. ^ "The Villainess Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. August 25, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  14. ^ "Excellence in Action Cinema Award for JUNG Byung-gil in New York".
  15. ^ "Fantasia 2017 Awards: Agnieszka Holland's SPOOR Takes Top Prize". 3 August 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  16. ^ "A TAXI DRIVER Tops Buil Film Awards". Korean Film Biz Zone. October 17, 2017.
  17. ^ "'제1회 더 서울어워즈' 노미네이트 공개, 이보영 지성 김희선 조승우 등 화려한 라인업 공개". SE Daily. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  18. ^ "Stars shine at Daejong awards: A successful year for film industry celebrated at annual ceremony". Korea JoongAng Daily. October 27, 2017.
  19. ^ "[공식입장] '제38회 청룡영화상' 후보 공개, '불한당'vs'택시' 대격돌" (in Korean). Sports Chosun. 2017-11-06.
  20. ^ "부산영화평론가협회상". Naver.
  21. ^ "제54회 백상예술대상, TV·영화 각 부문별 수상 후보자 공개". JTBC (in Korean). April 6, 2018.
  22. ^ "[23rd 춘사영화제 종합]'남한산성' 최우수감독상 수상…최희서 11관왕 달성". Herald Corporation (in Korean). May 18, 2018.
  23. ^ "'The Villainess' TV Adaptation In The Works At Amazon From Francisca Hu, Skybound Entertainment & Contents Panda". Deadline. Retrieved July 8, 2021.

External links[edit]