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South Korea's 'Assassination' nimbly maneuvers among killers

Although it doesn't instantly lend itself to the stuff of epic action-adventure, Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1930s serves as a potent backdrop for all the "Dirty Dozen"-type deeds being carried out in "Assassination."

When an agent from the Korean provisional government (Lee Jung-jae) wants to take out a double hit on an army commander and a national traitor, he enlists three exiled rebels — a sniper in the Korea independence army (Gianna Jun), a jailed military school graduate (Cho Jin-woong) and an explosives expert (Choi Deok-moon) — to do his bidding.

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They in turn become targeted when the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai is tipped off about the planned assassination, and a contract killer named Hawaii Pistol (Ha Jung-woo) is soon hot on their heels.

Working off a budget of $16 million, filmmaker Choi Dong-hoon keeps the unapologetically mainstream but twisty story moving along engagingly despite some less-than-seamless shifts in time.

It occasionally gets confusing discerning the good-bad guys from the bad-bad guys, but the director nimbly orchestrates to entertaining effect this mass game of cat-and-mouse populated by paid and unpaid assassins, double agents and even the proverbial twins separated at birth.

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"Assassination."

No MPAA rating. In Korean with subtitles.

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Playing: CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles; Edwards University Town Center 6, Irvine; Regal La Habra Stadium 16; Century Stadium 25 and XD, Orange.

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