Film Review: Lady Vengeance (2005)

(aka Sympathy for Lady Vengeance)

SYNOPSIS:

The final installment of director Chan Wook Park’s revenge trilogy (preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy) chronicles the efforts of Lee Geum-ja (Yeong-ae Lee) — known to her cellmates as “the kind Ms. Geum-ja” — to track down the man who betrayed her. Taking the rap for her accomplice and incarcerated for 13 long years, she plots an elaborate retribution with help from her fellow inmates.

REVIEW:

ALL SHE WANTED WAS A PEACEFUL LIFE….THEY WOULDN’T GIVE IT TO HER. LEE GEUM – JA HAVE MERCY ON US. ” Man, that’s a cool tag line for a film about revenge and a female revenge film at that! Once again much thanks to Mikey for letting me review the three films that make up the trilogy of revenge by Chan – wook Park. It was a pleasure to re – visit OLDBOY and SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and finally view SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE or as it is known in the U.S., LADY VENGEANCE. But I like all the different titles it goes under. Besides SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE and LADY VENGEANCE it is also known as KIND HEARTED MS. GEUM – JA, which is the literal english translation, MY LADY VENGEANCE, and the ultra cool SHED TEARS FOR LADY VENGEANCE! And I thought the dvd cover was cool looking if a bit understated but some of the other dvd covers I have seen are even cooler! Like the one where she is holding up the gun to her face with a white background, that one is great! And the movie itself?

Okay the plot can be oversimplified. Our Lady Of Vengeance, Geum – Ja, is imprisoned for the abduction and murder of a very young boy and it is a crime she did not commit. She was framed by a Mr. Baek, who I guess was kind of her boyfriend at the time but he got her to take the rap by threatening to kill her daughter, who Geum – Ja had given up for adoption but Mr. Baek said he would find her and kill her. So Geum – Ja languishes in prison all the while plotting her revenge even befriending inmates that she could use after her release to put her plan of revenge into motion. Finally she is released and gets a job in a bakery! Simple enough for ya? Just be prepared for the prison muff diving scene. It is not as erotic or hot as you might think a womens prison cunnilingus scene might be but it is rather humorous for what happens afterwards.

Again, I still say that OLDBOY is the crown jewel in Chan – wook Parks trilogy and I will even throw in that part of the reason for this stems from the fact that OLDBOY is based on a comic and has more action and outlandish ideas, but in a few ways LADY VENGEANCE is a superior film to OLDBOY as well as SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE.

Director Chan – wook Park is constantly evolving into a better film maker and it is plainly evident by watching LADY VENGEANCE. The way he unfolds events and introduces characters by using flashbacks, which there are alot of! But I did not find this confusing and by seeing OLDBOY and SYMPATHY… they prepared me for LADY V. And many of the scenes can only be described as beautiful and I know Park has already made a new film, a vampire movie and it’s hard to believe but I have heard that it is not that good but I have not seen it so the jury is still out.

Yeong – ae Lee, the actress that plays Lady Vengeance is not only a good actress but is supremely gorgeous as well. She has that delicate porcelain doll quality crossed with a 1940’s starlets beauty. Her performance is subdued for the most part with a undercurrent of refined frigidness. She seems like a right cold bitch at first but as the movie unwinds you do start to care about Geum – Ja. Especially after she is reunited with her daughter who had been adopted by a nice Australian family. One more thing that separates LADY VENGEANCE from the other two in the trilogy is that it is alot funnier than SYMPATHY… and OLDBOY, and it is the least violent of the three and again I read more than one review commenting on how violent it is but that it is just not the case. It does have a few bloody parts but it is not the bloodbath some have accused it as.

And another thing! I like LADY VENGEANCE I really do, but I think it is not the best when it comes to films about women taking their revenge, or at the least it is not sleazy, violent, and as mean spirited as the triumverate of the best female revenge which include THRILLER;A Cruel Picture, I SPIT….ON YOUR GRAVE, and MS. 45. I don’t know if it has to do with the time period these films were made in or that with the fact that with these films the theme is these women are getting revenge for being raped or what. Probably a combo of the two but I put LADY VENGEANCE behind these three. And I just gotta say that THRILLER. A Cruel Picture is in my top ten list of greatest movies of all time and if you have not seen it you gotta pick up the dvd! It is truly a must see!
There are scenes in LADY VENGEANCE that are spectacularly shot and look like paintings, or computer generated, or video games and I can’t tell how they were done. 

First one is the opening of the film that shows Geum – Ja with bright red eye makeup and pale white face much like the dvd cover and she does look like a vampire and looks stunning with a fragile quality to her. Second is a gorgeous dream sequence but it is very odd with Geum – Ja walking toward the edge of a snow covered cliff pulling what looks like a small rocking horse. But it isn’t a rocking horse. It has the body of a dog and a wagging tail and the head of the man who betrayed her, Mr. Baek, played by Min – sik Choi from OLDBOY by the way. She puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Weird! The one that is my favorite is where LADY VENGEANCE is running down a street in slow motion with her arm outstretched; gun in hand with a dark brick or stone wall behind her.

She runs up to one of the bad guys puts the gun right up to his head and blows the dudes brains out! This part looks so cool and gets a rise out of my miniscule schlonger and makes me hungry for more guts! Moreguts moreguts moreguts moreguts! And again here’s where I would usually complain about the lack of violent content but I will refrain and let it go in the case of LADY VENGEANCE. And wait till you see the gun that she uses! It is something she special orders in the movie and it is a ornately carves revolver that has two barrels if I remember correctly and it does look like a weapon that would come out in a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez movie. 

Really it’s kind of hard to just say, yes, you are going to love LADY VENGEANCE. If you loved OLDBOY but weren’t too thrilled by SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE then the reality is you might not like LADY VENGEANCE to be honest. But I did like it and will watch it again and I liked it better than SYMPATHY… at the time of this writing and I will say that it is almost required viewing to get what the director was trying to accomplish with his trilogy. It doesn’t really matter what order you watch them in though. I would have liked to have seen SYMPATHY…first, then LADY VENGEANCE and saved OLDBOY for last.

So overall LADY VENGEANCE is a really good film, definitely one of the best Korean films I have seen and if you got swept up into the OLDBOY and vengeance whirlwind you would do good to leave yourself open and not fight it and you will enjoy it.

Get Old Boy, Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance in the new Vengeance Trilogy set from Amazon

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