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Lady Vengeance

A 2005 South Korean revenge drama directed by Park Chan-wook.

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A Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22

  • Jul 5, 2011
Of Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy, this is my least favorite entry. The film is full of the expected twists and turns that are common in his films, but somehow this one didn't have the dark, gritty realism of the first two installments. Part of the issue is that much of the film is overly stylized and features slightly surreal visual flares that give it a more fantastical quality making it a little hard to discern what is reality, what is memory, and what is dream. Another issue, although certainly not a flaw, was that this film relies more heavily on humor and melodrama, which distracts one from the actual taking of vengeance. The film depicts less violence than the previous entries and instead shows how the main character plans her vengeance and the steps along the way into making that a reality.

The story follows Lee Geum-ja, a woman who was falsely accused of murdering a young boy, and then imprisoned for thirteen years. It's revealed that all the while in prison, Geum-ja made plans to carry out revenge on the real killer of the boy, Mr. Baek, a former teacher of hers who blackmailed her into helping him while her own daughter was held hostage. Geum-ja's daugther, renamed Jenny, was then adopted by an Australian couple while she was in prison. It is in prison where Geum-ja begins to take her plan into action by winning favors from other inmates by helping them with their problems in the prison facility.
After thirteen long years she is released and begins collecting on these favors, visiting the former prisoners, who were released before she was, and having them help her carry out her complex goal. But as to be expected, things aren't so easy and when Geum-ja visits her long-lost daughter, Jenny, in Australia, she doesn't count on Jenny forcing Geum-ja to take her back with her to Korea. The two bond, slowly and reluctantly at first, and see each other as damaged people, but Geum-ja understands that she has a dark past full of sins and regrets which she cannot escape and Jenny has the chance for redemption and a hope for the future which Geum-ja will never be able to share with her.

Lady Vengeance is a more character-driven film than one might expect and it features very little action instead emphasizing the emotional states of the many victims in the story. The one real act of vengeance in the film is indeed gruesome as it is revealed that the parents of all the children Mr. Baek has killed have been gathered by Geum-ja to take their fatal revenge. The proceeding murder and the lengthy discussion scene that comes before are so over-the-top and unrealistic that they take on an almost morbidly farcical nature, like some absurd ceremony of judgment and mutilation. What's interesting is that from this point onward Geum-ja's revenge is virtually all but an act of voyeurism as she watches the parents murder Mr. Baek using a variety of blunt and bladed weapons.

All in all, I wasn't sure how to react to Lady Vengeance. It wasn't an adrenaline-fueled thriller with cleverly choreographed action scenes like Oldboy, nor was it a gritty urban revenge drama like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. It did however have carry-over elements. Like in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance there is a kidney transplant and a kidnapping (some of the dialogue regarding the kinds of kidnappings and the effects they have on parents is almost identical). Like in Oldboy the main character has been imprisoned for years and years, though in this case Geum-ja hasn't been in complete solitude like the Oh Dae-su character. There are other similarities such as the twist ending and the relationships between parents and their children and how good paternal figures can be driven by rage and the desire for revenge until they are twisted into creatures of brutal, sadistic violence, who bear little resemblance to the loving parents they once were.
As a finale, Lady Vengeance seems a little too polished and commercial when compared to the previous films, and in some ways it's anticlimactic. Still, the performances are strong and the imagery has a poetic, even ironic, quality to it that gives it a unique flavor.
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July 05, 2011
This was my second most favorite of the three films especially when viewed in the director's cut "fade to white" cinematography.
July 05, 2011
Yeah, I really want to see that version and compare the two.
More Lady Vengeance reviews
Quick Tip by . May 16, 2011
I felt like the entire first hour of this was skippable, as it was a pastiche of all kinds of genre conventions/Park trying to be Quentin Tarantino making "Kill Bill." But it gets interesting once she's caught the guy - the last 45 minutes or so are quite fascinating.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
Scary and stylish. This is my favorite from the revenge trilogy.
review by . December 21, 2008
posted in ASIANatomy
Dvd cover
      LADY VENGEANCE (aka. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is the third installment in Park Chan-Wook's "vengeance" trilogy, among of which my favorite is the terrific "Oldboy" and the first film ""Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance". These three films have different plotlines and characters; the only thing that ties them together is their similar themes about suffering, revenge and redemption (or the goal for redemption). Fans of the franchise will undoubtedly …
review by . July 17, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Young boy, sad mistake  Thirteen years, long time to wait  Snow falls on white cake
review by . December 21, 2008
The last of the "Vengeance Trilogy" is also the last for me as well, I have finally seen all three. Lady Vengeance is definitely not the best of the three but it was still one sick flick. Let's set it off, the film starts out just a little slow and a little weird and even more weird than the other two. Lee Geum-ja who was wrongly put in prison for murder is finally getting out. While inside she basically goes from a sweet and innocent girl to a rather cold and vengeful nutcase. Though she has developed …
review by . December 14, 2006
This film is really good. Park Chanwook made the perfect conclusion to a trilogy with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The three films work off each other beautifully, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is far from a disappointment.The acting is top-notch, with cameos from Park Chanwook's first two films intermingling with new talent. The directing is superb, not quite eclipsing Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance or Oldboy but coming quite close. Park's directing style is solid and distinctive; he builds off earlier …
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