Morose Geum-ja (Yeong-ae Lee) seems happy only in her violent dreams of vengeance. Flashbacks show the viewer some of her prison sentence. The here-&-now tale of her "magnificent plan' unfolds like a tapestry of mysterious weave.
She'd been forced to confess to an unimaginably horrible crime not her own & as a result lost her family & her freedom. Thirteen years later she is released full of rage. How can we help but have Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi, 2005), third of the triptych of revenge pieces that began with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) & Oldboy (2003).
The title was shortened to Lady Vengeance in its US release, & has also been shown as Lady Vendetta, My Lady Vengeance & Shed Tears for Lady Vengeance.
It is not quite the equal of Chan-wook Park's earlier two revenge movies, but nevertheless a sad & satisfying journey.
One of Park's intents seems to have been to strip the story of sexploitative content. Even films about violent women devoid of sex tend to select sexy young babes whose every physical motion is sensual & carries erotic underpinnings, even with guns or swords. So too women-in-prison films are likewise notoriously fetishistic, so Geum-ja's got a double-whammy of potential for the fetish crowd, which Park undermines somewhat.
Park initially wanted to cast an older woman in the role, a middleaged housewife avenger. Though he eventually went with the expected casting of youthful beauty in the main role, there's nevertheless a no-monkey-business attitude forcing the viewer to take Geum-ja very, very seriously & not attempt to erotify her experience or her horrific actions.
The torture sequence for the child-slayer Baek (Min-sik Choi) is grim, grim, grim, but who can resist a certain happiness that this should be happening to a child killer.
We next share with the parents of slain children the harrowing experience of watching the videos the killer made of his brutal slayings.
We watch the parents' faces to the sound of children weeping, begging for their lives, being killed.
It'd take a pretty sick puppy to find this as sexually exciting as the vengeance-driven Lady Snowblood (1973) or Uma Thurman et al in Kill Bill (2003) for primary examples, & this deeper seriousness & capacity to appall is obviously one of Park's basic intents.
The parents, at a peak of grief, horror, & hatred, are then given the choice: turn Baek over to the police & the vagaries of the justice system, or allow Geum-ja to finish what she began.
What unfolds could well stand as a prequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1983), despite that it remains throughout a whole lot artier & tasteful than anyone is apt to expect of a revenge piece.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl