March 6, 2020

THE WITCH: SUBVERSION: Kids Kill the Darndest Things
Starring Kim Da-mi, Jo Min-su, Choi Woo-shik, Park Hee-soon, Go Min-si, Choi Jung-woo, Oh Mi-hee. Directed by Park Hoon-jung. (125 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

Have you ever known somebody who seems to be good at everything...and knows it? They can casually pick up a ball and nail a three-pointer, ace a test without bothering to study and beat you at Mario Kart their first time playing. They’re comfortable & confident in any social situation, effortlessly striking up engaging conversations with strangers and whose jokes are always funny.

Doesn’t just a small part of you secretly hate that guy?

19-year-old Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) is awesome at everything, too. She’s number-one in her class, extraordinarily knowledgeable and becomes a finalist in a nationally televised singing competition despite never having previously sung in her life. As we later learn, she can also levitate objects, is a skilled killer and damn-near indestructible.

But unlike that supercool douche canoe you’ve grown to resent, we genuinely like Ja-yoon. She’s empathetic, caring and cute as a button. Not only that, she loves and is loved by her elderly adoptive parents. Besides, none of her more lethal talents are her own doing.

She only came in for a cleaning.
Despite the title, The Witch: Subversion is not a horror film. Though the narrative tries to keep Ja-yoon’s true nature close-to-the-vest longer than it needs to, savvy viewers will have it figured out in the prologue, when an eight-year-old girl escapes from a monolithic facility, to the chagrin of maniacal geneticist Dr. Baek (Jo Min-su) and her #1 thug, Mr. Choi (Park Hee-soon). That girl, of course, is young Ja-yoon and she’s the enhanced product of genetic engineering, as are a small batch of other kids who grow up to be Baek’s cronies (including a pre-Parasite Choi Woo-shik). As a young adult, Ja-yoon's deadly skills come in handy as Baek tries to rein her in.

A bonkers cross between Village of the Damned and Lucy, the film throws way too much plot into a relatively simple story (and still doesn’t make-clear why these kids are being bred as killers). However, there are a few nifty twists and its gonzo approach to the action – particularly during the second half – is wildly entertaining. Hyperkinetic without ever becoming disorienting, The Witch is chock-full of bloodsoaked brawls, snapped limbs and explosive gunplay. At its center is Kim Da-Mi in a remarkable performance. As Ja-yoon, she evolves from “helpless” & meek to vengeful & menacing without ever losing the audience’s sympathy.

If the subtitle – Subversion – wasn’t already an obvious clue, the denouement leaves the door left wide-open for a sequel or two (which are apparently forthcoming). Still, The Witch tells a decent self-contained story in its own right. It’s a bit too plot heavy for its own good, but fans of crazy, violent action should be amused.


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