Friday, February 19, 2010
★★★½ LADY VENGEANCE
a.k.a. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, My Lady Vengeance, Shed Tears for Lady Vengeance, Kind-Hearted Ms. Geum-Ja
Directed by Chan-wook Park
cast: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi, Tony Barry, Anne Cordiner, Su-hee Go, Hye-jeong Kang, Bu-seon Kim, Byeong-ok Kim, Shi-hoo
2005 - South Korea
The third film in his Vengeance Trilogy (SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, OLD BOY), Chan-wook Park's LADY VENGEANCE spins the tale of a young kidnapper’s assistant, Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee), seeking revenge on her partner and child killer Mr. Baek (Min-sik Choi) who forced Geum-ja Lee to take the wrap for the death of hostage Park Won-mo by abducting Geum-ja Lee's daughter. The Kidnapping of a kidnapper, so to speak. Geum-ja Lee's beauty and the horrific nature of the crime cause her to become the latest media sensation, which she uses to her advantage by manipulating fellow inmates to help her hatch an elaborate revenge plot. Geum-ja Lee is a chameleon who can lovingly care for an elderly North Korean inmate to gain plans for an exotic gun and also become a smiling nursemaid as she slowly poisons the prison queen bee.
Upon her release, she reunites with her daughter and has a brief relationship with a co-worker, regaining a sense of family. Due to her past sins, Geum-ja Lee feels she is unworthy of such happiness. Her redemption can only be in the form of retribution for the families who lost their children by the hands of Mr. Baek. LADY VEGEANCE doesn't strive for the simple KILL BILL route, instead veering into one of the most imaginative revenge scenarios ever filmed.
LADY VENGEANCE does have its problems. Like SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, Chan-wook Parks seems overly pleased with his imagery and non-linear story telling. There are too many scenes that fail to advance the proceedings, goofy dream sequences, and post production trickery that pop you out of any sustained tonal flow. It doesn't go LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD on us, but the film would have been greatly improved by a more linear cut and 20 minute shave. Hell, it could use a rinse and repeat. Although LADY VENGEANCE constantly hits you in the face with symbolism pies, it does contain the cruel and violent shocks that South Korean Cinema is becoming notorious for; and the last half hour is a humdinger on the level of OLD BOY. Worthy of the time you will have to invest is the performance of Yeong-ae Lee who portrays Geum-ja Lee as a multi-layered and flawed individual light years from the stock characters that inhabit American, Hong Kong and Japanese revenge thrillers. This winner of a gazillion international film festival awards can be had on a Region 1 DVD by Tartan. The disc features a 40 minute interview with the director, 10 minute behind the scenes featurette and three audio commentary tracks. You can also rent or stream the film through Netflix.