Yaksha: Ruthless Operations 2022 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
When the case he brings against a shifty corporate bigwig doesn’t stick, Seoul-based lead prosecutor Han Ji-hoon (Park Hae-soo) is publicly humiliated, and demoted to a backwater legal aid position at Korea’s National Intelligence Service. He can’t volunteer fast enough when Director Yeom (Jin Kyung) needs somebody to audit some improprieties at the NIS office in Shenyang, but Han finds trouble on top of trouble in the city in northeastern China, where the North Korean border is just a few hundred miles away and spies from the north, the south, China, Japan, Russia, and even the US wage a war of dirt and secrets. Ji Kang-in (Sol Kyung-gu), also known as “Yaksha,” is the NIS’s chief operative in Shenyang. He has no use for regulations, and even less for a looky-loo from headquarters. But when Han manages to survive an ambush by North Korean agents during a field op, Ji Kang-in keeps him around, and even shows him a glimmer of companionship.
Ji and his gung-ho young team – Hee-won (Lee El), Jae-gyu (Song Jae-rim), and Jeong-dae (Jinyoung) – are on the hunt for a guy named Moon, who presides over a slush fund for North Korean government. Thing is, North Korean State Security is searching for him, too, as are the Chinese, and don’t count out the Japanese, who’ve sent a slithery high-ranking spy called Ozawa (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) to Shenyang with a mind to grab Moon and cancel Ji permanently. (A flashback reveals just how much violent history Yaksha has with Ozawa and the Japanese.) Han, who still believes he’s searching for localized NIS corruption, becomes increasingly integral to the operations of Ji and his team, and even draws on a few gears he didn’t know he had.
The corruption is anything but containable. With each new gunfight and double-cross, the broader scope of wrongdoing and complicity by high-ranking state actors becomes clear. With the list of people they can trust shrinking, Ji, Han, and the team are forced to pivot into total improvisation. Han’s visit to Shenyang won’t be for nothing. And Ji will get results. But if justice is going to be served, it will be by any means necessary.
Our Take: Midway through Yaksha: Ruthless Operations, as Ji Kang-in and Han Ji-Hoon have it out in a rain-spattered fistfight set among the gaudy neon glare and crowded food stalls of a Shenyang night market, it’s finally clear why the NIS loose cannon has so willingly illuminated his operation to the straight-arrow lawyer from HQ: these two see at least a bit of themselves in each other. They’re more alike than their respective codes and protocols will allow them to admit, and Park Hae-soo and Sol Kyung-gu steadily develop the chemistry between their characters, to the point that they share a meal while their faces are still bleeding from that fistfight. Together with Yaksha’s dedicated young team of shooters, it’s the kind of crew you can believe in. And that’s important, because besides them, basically nobody in Yaksha is who they say they are. That emphasis on chemistry is certainly by design, since the film’s finale leaves the possibility of a sequel on the table.
And why not? There is some slack in the pacing of Yaksha: Ruthless Operations, but it hums with ease through a few tightly-edited action sequences, particularly an apartment block shootout that features bullets flying across courtyards and throngs of John Wick-style assailants targeting our heroes. Yaksha also benefits from palette, with neon reds bleeding in from every corner of the frame, and the gleaming, teeming Shenyang cityscape functioning as an adversary to every side in this spy on spy on spy battlespace. By the point of its culminating showdown, it’s easy to wonder what other corrupt operators could get the treatment from Yaksha and Han going forward.