REVIEW: ‘Yaksha: Ruthless Operations’ is a Ride

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Yaksha Ruthless Operations - But Why Tho

Spy adventures aren’t as common as they once were, which makes films like Yaksha: Ruthless Operations a breath of fresh air by returning to one of the action genre’s tent poles. A South Korean Netflix Original, Yaksha: Ruthless Operations is directed Hyeon Na and stars Sol Kyung-gu, Park Hae-soo, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Dong-kun Yang, Lee El, Song Jae-rim , Jinyoung Park, and Lee Soo-kyung.

Yaksha: Ruthless Operations is a multi-lingual film with Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, and English taking center stage for a story set in Shenyang, a city with the highest spy density in the world. A geopolitical key point in North-East Asia, Shenyang becomes the backdrop for a story that looks into black ops run by Japan and Korea and the personal revenge that’s a key in it all. In the film, known as the titular “Yaksha,” Kang-In is the ruthless leader of an overseas black ops team, named, well, Black Team.

More myth than man, Yaksha is the focal point that double-crosses, international incidents, and intrigue revolve around. Black Team is dedicated to overseas secret operations in South Korea, protecting the country’s interests by nearly any means necessary. Kang-In is a veteran who will do anything and everything he can to accomplish his mission, and with a devout team who will die if he tells them to, their focus is to combat the other active espionage teams set in play.

But when the National Intelligence Service (NIS) find out that all of the report findings on local trends in Shenyang (sent by the Black Team) are actually fake, the 4th Director of the NIS, Yeom Jeong-won, dispatches Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office Prosecutor Han Ji-hoon as a special inspector on the case. While the relationship is antagonistic, with the Black Team trying to shake-off Ji-hoon at every turn, Ji-hoon’s persistence leads him to become a vital part of the operations.

Fit for its genre, the film opens up fast, throwing the audience into an alley fight that helps set the stage for what’s to come. While reviewing the plot is hard, given that mystery is key to the espionage of it all, Director Na is able to tightly wind a story that uses the viewers’ blind spots to build mystery before unraveling it all in the third act. Every choice in the Yaksha: Ruthless Operations is done to lead up to a cascading finish where every action and reaction characters have made in the film’s first two acts comes to a head. There isn’t a single character without purpose and this makes the two hours spent with Black Team and Ji-hoon well worth it.

That said, the story is only one part of what makes Yaksha: Ruthless Operations worth watching. Alone, the film’s narrative isn’t anything really new. It’s a spy thriller with a great team, but we’ve seen these before both on film and in long-form series. That said, the choice to center a Prosecutor who has been thrown into a world of espionage instead of a professional allows the audience exposition to be shown instead of said and gives the audience a character to map themselves onto.

Additionally, as Ji-Hoon, Park Hae-soo has chemistry with absolutely everyone he acts opposite. Whether it’s comradery, tension, or anything else, Park is able to run the emotional gamut of a man thrust into action, slightly unsure of himself in it all, but guided by a strong moral compass. However, it’s in his scenes with Yaksha, played by Sol Kyung-gu that the chemistry is off the charts.

Finally, Yaksha: Ruthless Operations has some stunning action set pieces (even if the computer-generated fire is well, obviously generated a la the finale episode of Reacher). One-on-one fight sequences happen quickly and with intention while the film’s shootouts work well to ramp up the tension. That said, there aren’t enough action sequences to help keep the pace for two hours. While the story itself always has meaning, it could have easily been edited to a shorter length, removing the lag that happens in the film’s middle.

While Yaksha: Ruthless Operations is one of many films halted from a theater-run thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, its worldwide distribution on Netflix has also opened it up to a large audience I hope embraces it. Outside of minor pacing issues and a twist that takes one too many turns, the film is packed with thrilling espionage action, charismatic characters, and a cast that fires on all cylinders. Yaksha: Ruthless Operations doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does embrace the spy subgenre with open arms, allowing the tropes to do the work without getting bogged down by them, and always keeping its characters primary to the story.

Yaksha: Ruthless Operations is streaming now exclusively on Netflix.


Yaksha: Ruthless Operations
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

While Yaksha: Ruthless Operations is one of many films halted from a theater-run thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, its worldwide distribution on Netflix has also opened it up to a large audience I hope embraces it. Outside of minor pacing issues and a twist that takes one too many turns, the film is packed with thrilling espionage action, charismatic characters, and a cast that fires on all cylinders. Yaksha: Ruthless Operations doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does embrace the spy subgenre with open arms, allowing the tropes to do the work without getting bogged down by them, and always keeping its characters primary to the story.