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Review of the movie “Ballerina” (2023) directed by Lee Chung-hyun.
Review of the movie "Ballerina" (2023) directed by Lee Chung-hyun.

Review of the movie “Ballerina” (2023) directed by Lee Chung-hyun.

A movie with some good qualities

Netflix has a particular approach to selecting Korean films, focusing mainly on action-oriented ones with stunning visuals and at least one well-known actor. This year’s Busan premiere, “Ballerina”, fits perfectly into this formula. Starring Jeon Jong-seo from “Burning” and “Money Heist: Korea” as the lead seeking revenge, and Park Yu-rim from “Drive My Car” as the target of said revenge, this stylish action film has been met with success on the streaming platform.

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Following a thrilling opening sequence, which has become common practice, the true narrative of Ok-joo, a former bodyguard, and her late best friend Min-hee’s murder is gradually revealed through flashbacks. These flashbacks also shed light on Ok-joo’s unyielding pursuit for vengeance. Eventually, another friend enters the picture, but the majority of the film centers on Ok-joo’s quest for retribution against those responsible for her friend’s death.

The obvious and straightforward statement to make is that the screenplay of “Ballerina” lacks coherence and consistency in both its structure and pace. The use of flashbacks can be confusing and there are significant plot holes throughout. Additionally, there is minimal character development, as even the main character is primarily defined by her obsession for revenge. However, this is where the movie’s first strength emerges, as Jeon Jong-seo delivers a convincing performance as a vengeful deity, with her cold gaze and overall demeanor fitting well with the overall storyline.

The short ballet sequence, however, stands apart from the main plot, as do several other sequences. It contributes to the overall stylized and polished aesthetic of the film, which also has a strong element of brutality that suits the action. Therefore, DP Cho Young-jik’s cinematography is one of the standout features of the film, along with Kim Min-hye’s art direction and the impressive SFX, particularly in the action sequences.

However, aside from the opening scene, the action takes an excessive amount of time to begin, which ultimately hinders the overall quality of the film. On a positive note, once the action does start, it is relentless and impressive, with Kim Ji-hun portraying a convincingly despicable villain. The visuals, editing, music, and action choreography are all of high caliber. Together, they create a style that can be likened to a fierce music video, adding to the overall entertainment value of the film. This approach is something that Korean cinema has excelled at for quite some time now.

“Ballerina” is a film that will definitely find some appeal among fans of violent action, but the fact that this aspect takes too long to begin, and that there is nothing particularly memorable here, results in another flick that some people will have fun watching, and forget immediately after.