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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (KOREA 2005)

Directed : Park Chan Wook
Written by : Park Chan-wook and Jeong Seo-Gyeong
Cast : Lee Young-Ae, Choi Min Mik

Synopsis :
“A high school student (Lee) goes to jail in order to save the teacher (Choi) she loves. When she leaves prison 13 years later, she finds she has been betrayed and prepares to take her revenge.”

by Edward Tang

Ah, from the moment you view the opening stylized credits you know that you’ll be in for a damn good ride brought to you by Mr. Park Chan-wook. Returning for the final time to his vengeance-themed flicks, you can bet your ass that he delivers the goods again. From the beginning to end, you are treated with a visual display that most directors couldn’t even handle if they tried. Everything in this film is up to par, whether it be the performances (I don’t think you’ll find a film that this man has directed where the actors weren’t pure goodness throughout), the plot, the awesome musical score, direction or anything in between. Perhaps the only thing people would bitch about would be the lack of “action” in between scenes like the infamous hallway fight in Oldboy or when that Green-haired douche in Mr. Vengeance smacks down the kidney-thieves. What we have here is a gift, the perfect conclusion to the GREATEST trilogy of films I’ve ever seen. Take the gift, unwrap it and enjoy.

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-Ae) seems like the perfect lady: she’s beautiful, kind and everyone loves her. Well, she is perfect aside from the small detail that she kidnapped and murdered a five year old boy. Even though she’s perceived as a murderer in society, everyone seems to love her and that polka-dot dress she’s seen in becomes the fashion statement of the moment. Hell, even in prison everyone loves her because she cares about everyone and helps them in different ways. (See a big fat lesbian who forces chubby women to perform oral sex on her who gets punished with a “clean stomach.”) When she is released from captivity, she’s a different person entirely and only looks at one option: to find Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik) and kill him for putting her in prison for nine years.

There’s a whole lot more to the story, but you’ll have to watch to find out bastards! Anyways, the story moves perfectly, giving more details and showing more of Geum-ja’s actions before the ACTUAL vengeance-fueled finale. The plot in the film seems more down to Earth than say Oldboy that doesn’t include locking a man away in some room, drugging him and then erasing the new knowledge he found out with hypnosis. It also strides far away from the deep dark depressing mode that Oldboy/Mr. Vengeance strode into with and comes back with more of a tough drama and partially a comedy flick. Yeah, there’s a bunch of stuff that had me laughing in this flick that ranged from a strange dream that Geum-ja has, from a Priest sporting the worst haircut I’ve ever seen on someone, to a scene where Geum-ja is whacked out on some PCP and she’s hammin’ it up with some Australians(CRIKEY!). Mr. Baek even gets on in the action when he out of the blue bends his wife over a table and just proceeds to rape the shit out of her while she regularly continues her meal and chats with him about shopping with her friends. But let’s put it this way, even though the film has it’s humorous moments, get ready for some dark moments that include a video camera that follows us to our blood-soaked finale which literally punches you in the chest.

Park Chan-wook isn’t without his goodness about, his direction shines in every moment. He rarely misses a spot in this film, perhaps my favorite shot belongs to a scene in which a group of people (I won’t spoil it) dress in plastic wrap and sit in a line awaiting to throw out some violence. Now, it had the idea that these people were awaiting their turn to unleash their hate and anger but it also was humorous to me because it looked like they were waiting in line for a ride at a water park and didn’t want to get their clothes wet so they put on some plastic to make sure. His direction is a character of the film, from the different things he focuses on, Geum-ja’s eye shadow or a huge ass bullet wound in the back of someones skull, it’s all good. This is accompanied by a great musical score that goes with every scene it shows up in. I don’t know, sometimes music is plain bullshit in movies but it adds to the strength of the scenes that would otherwise seem a bit dull.

The acting in Lady Vengeance is greatness, plain and simple. Although most of the characters in the film do a good job, it’s really Lee Young-Ae’s show. She is a presence on the screen and hits it well out of the ballpark. Her character goes through a transformation and blames it on Mr. Baek (who is more or less responsible) and in turn thinks that ridding the world of him with complete her quest for redemption. Every scene you can relate with her story, you can get into what she’s offering at the plate. Her performance in believable if anything and is the bright shining spot on the film. Choi Min-sik is awesome, enough said. There’s even some worth while cameos in the film, ranging from Yu Ji-tae (Oh Dae-su’s captor in Oldboy) and Song Kang-ho (JSA, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance). Hell even the Australians didn’t bring back bad memories of those white bastards in JSA.

Although it’s not perfect, Lady Vengeance is a hell of a film that Park Chan-wook goes all out on and delivers the goods. I’d still have to say that Oldboy is my favorite out of the three but this one comes close. I would usually end with saying what you would like or wouldn’t like depending on who you are but I’d really have to kick you in the nuts if you didn’t want to sit through this one. No explosions here but who f*cking cares? There’s more than enough to please my mind for time limit and I suspect you’ll love the movie too (Just don’t expect an Oldboy type twist finale, but not to worry the ending here is just as powerful). What’s next from the great director? I hear something about mental hospitals and vampires….bring it on.

Plot : 4/5
Acting : 5/5
Entertainment : 4/5
Overall : 5/5

Notable Scenes
- The reveal of Mr. Baek’s crimes
- Lee Geum-ja’s solution to her quest for vengeance.

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Sympathy For Lady Vengeance

Comments (One comment)

hello i m looking for the tittle of the song singing by santa claus Line chorist when li gum jà leave the prison. do you know it?


jerome / June 27th, 2010, 9:50 pm

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