- Also known as:
- Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.
- Original title:
- 친절한 금자씨 (Chinjeolhan geumjassi).
- Jeong Seo-kyeong & Park Chan-wook.
- Park Chan-wook.
Lady Vengeance is the third and final instalment in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy. I haven’t seen the previous parts — Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Oldboy (2003) — so I will be reviewing this as if it stood alone.
After a gorgeous credits sequence, featuring Vivaldi’s “Ah ch’infelice sempre” — oh, how I love a good harpsichord —, we are introduced to Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young Ae), who has spent the last thirteen years in prison after being forced to confess to the murder of a young boy. The real murderer, Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), kidnapped Geum-ja’s daughter to make her confess, and now she wants revenge.
With a set up like that, you’d expect the standard revenge fair — hot, pissed-off woman kills people in ever-bloodier ways — but what Park Chan-wook gives us instead is a hauntingly beautiful film, infused with black humour and visual flair. The film flits in and out of flashback, between reality and fantasy, past and present. It’s an exciting film and visually — confident is the word that describes it best, I think. Park has an Hitchcockian flair for visual storytelling: he’s not afraid of a bold, striking camera movement, nor of subtle raking shots. There’s something playful about his film-making — makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
And this visual flair is echoed in the narrative: Park and co-scripter Jeong have fashioned a tragicomic story that, as it turns out, is really more about atonement than it is about vengeance, and they fill it with whimsical details — Geum-ja’s weapon of choice? A double-chambered gun designed by a North-Korean spy she met in prison — and with scenes of real emotional depth. Somehow, they manage to corral all this whimsy and depth into a cohesive whole, and by the final act it turns into one of the most heart-breaking films you’ll see.