In the realm of action-thrillers, Netflix’s Ballerina (2023) epitomizes the adage “style over substance.” This South Korean film, while visually captivating, suffers from a narrative so scant it’s almost non-existent.
The current trend in action cinema leans heavily towards visceral, mindless experiences akin to John Wick and The Raid. Character depth gives way to choreographed spectacle, and nuanced storytelling is sacrificed for stylized visuals and intense brutality. Ballerina caters to this aesthetic, appealing to those enamored with flashy lights and copious gore. However, it treads a precarious line, pushing the boundaries of style without delving into the depths of substance.
Ballerina revolves around Ok-ju (Jeon Jong-seo), a former close-protection expert now burdened by self-loathing. Her only connection to the world is Min-hee (Park Yu-rim), a ballerina and a close friend. The plot, if it can be called that, takes a tragic turn when Min-hee falls victim to a human-trafficking ring, compelling Ok-ju to embark on a revenge mission. The narrative lacks complexity, opting for a straightforward, revenge-driven trajectory.
Lack of Depth
While Ok-ju’s vengeance fuels the plot, the film falls short in providing substantial reasons for the audience to invest in her journey. The relationship between Ok-ju and Min-hee, though hinted at, lacks the depth needed to evoke genuine empathy. The villains, portrayed as perverse and villainous, fail to elicit any emotional response. The attempt to manipulate viewers’ sympathies through shock tactics feels lazy and uninspired.
Style Over Innovation
Ballerina’s saving grace lies in its brutal action sequences. The film excels in practical effects and raw intensity, offering a visceral experience for action aficionados. However, these moments, while impactful, lack originality. The film borrows heavily from established tropes, presenting action scenes that, while well-executed, feel derivative and fail to leave a lasting impression.
Ballerina, for all its visual flair and kinetic action, lacks the substance required to make it memorable. It follows the path paved by its predecessors without adding anything new to the genre. The film’s emotional core remains underdeveloped, leaving viewers disconnected from the characters and their plight. While it offers an adrenaline-fueled cinematic experience, Ballerina ultimately fades from memory, failing to leave a lasting impact on the audience.