By Martin Unsworth

Hitman for hire Ui-gang (Jang Hyuk) hopes to give up the business but is given a tough assignment by his wife – he must babysit her friend’s teenage child while the pair go away for three weeks. What could possibly go wrong? Especially when young Yoon-ji (K-pop star Lee Seo-young) asks to stay at one of her friends. He’s delighted with this proposition since it’ll mean he’ll keep more of his privacy, except things go wrong when Kim Yun becomes the target of a cartel that wishes to traffic her to a wealthy and important client. Putting his skills to good use, he sets about ensuring she’s safe.

Boasting superbly choreographed fight scenes, The Killer is John Wick on steroids. Slickly filmed, it motors along at a breakneck pace and oozes cool like only Asian cinema can. As the titular character, Hyuk plays a likeable anti-hero. Calm and collected, he throws himself into the role (literally, as we see in the behind-the-scenes footage that plays over the end credits) and is a force to be reckoned with. His adversaries might be plentiful, but many are nothing more than cannon fodder. There are more than enough of them for Ui-gang to get through, some are tougher than others, and some are fleshed out more as the action progresses.

Packed with spectacular stunts and exciting action, Jae-Hoon Choi directs with zest and manages to give a practically emotionless leading man a sense of pathos at having to go back into his business. The story is based on a webcomic, and this is displayed in the over-the-top action and almost non-stop set pieces. There’s enough humour sprinkled throughout to avoid it becoming a grim experience, though. Highly recommended for fans of high-octane, bloody violence.

Trinity CineAsia presents The Killer on Digital March 27th and Blu-ray and DVD on April 17th.