Netflix keeps pushing South Korean content at an incredible pace. Every week, there is a new show to watch or a new movie to watch. The result of such an output of content is that not everything is worth watching. In the same way we can end up watching something like Squid Game of Crash Landing On You, we can end up watching “Yaksha: Ruthless Operations” an action spy thriller that does things in the most predictable way possible, and ends up being a forgettable adventure at best.
Yaksha: Ruthless Operations is directed by Na Hyun and stars Sol Kyung-gu, Park Hae-soo and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi. The film tells the story of Han Ji-hoon as he takes on a mission with a secretive group of spies that could take the whole city down with them.
The spy genre mostly works in two ways. In those cases, the spies are more in line with their real-life counterparts. This means that the work of a spy is focused mostly on being quiet, passing under the radar, extracting information from the enemy, delivering it to your allies, and so on. This type of spy is portrayed in films such as Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, and The Courier (both starring Benedict Cumberbatch, ironically).
The other way spies can work in movies is by going the James Bond route, like, for example, with Kingsman: The Secret Service of the Mission Impossible series. These are bombastic pieces of cinema where the entertainment comes mostly from seeing our main characters being thrown into unrealistically dangerous situations and seeing them come unscathed. Unlike the first type of film, these are more fun movies and leave the cerebral stuff to the side most of the time.
Yaksha: Ruthless Operations wants to be both and the same when it comes to tackling the genre. For the most part, the movie tries to be an action spy thriller by including tons of action, shootings, car chases, and putting the characters through maybe too many close calls. Like we said before, this type of movie can be really fun, but Na Hyun and his team of filmmakers fall short when it comes to delivering the type of action the movie deserves.
It is clear that the movie doesn’t have as many resources as Mission Impossible films, for example. And yet, the movie is ambitious enough to try to pull off sequences that could have taken place inside Tom Cruise’s vehicle. The ambition is admirable, but it also comes across as misguided because when it matters the most, the movie is not able to deliver.
For example, the shootings can be one of the best and most exciting types of scenes in a movie like this, but in Yaksha: Ruthless Operations, the action choreography is almost non-existent, with actors shooting their guns left and right and just having a terrible aim.
It doesn’t come off as if the gunfights are like this because the universe of the movie works that way. It comes across as if there was not enough time to prepare a proper action sequence with ups and downs.
The rest of the action works the same way. There are signs of an idea, but the idea cannot be executed properly because of many factors. It is quite a shame. Thankfully, the actors take their roles very seriously. So they managed to somewhat see the idea of being participants in a great action sequence, and that the consequences of it all were dire and huge for the universe inside the movie.
Park Hae-soo is coming right off the success of Squid Game, so international audiences will surely find him a familiar face. His role is the most interesting one, as he begins the film as a man out of his depth when it comes to the mission at hand, but manages to step up to the occasion and is more triumphant. There are intriguing developments in his character.
The rest of the cast do their thing really well, but no one is really a stand-out. K-Pop’s Jinyoung, makes an appearance, it’s only for a short time, so if someone finds him the reason to watch the movie, better keep those expectations down.
Visually, the movie works within the confines of digital cinematography, a format that has better use for a TV show than a proper cinematic experience. So it begs the question of whether these Netflix films are truly made to be movies in the first place, rather than just special episodes of a TV show. It is well known that the South Korean film industry can deliver some truly amazing visuals and production design. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those examples.
Yaksha: Ruthless Operations works well as a piece of vacuous entertainment, but it doesn’t really manage to reach the high standards the South Korean film industry is capable of delivering.