Friday, May 22, 2009

Lady Vengeance

While this film is my second experience with director Park Chan-wook (the first one being Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), I enjoyed it this time. Obviously, the story of Lady Vengeance is almost as good as the one in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (if not better). Besides, even though I didn't really like the first film in Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance" trilogy, I really enjoyed watching this one mostly because it's in a balanced way an entertaining film for the mainstream public and also a good artistic powerhouse.


Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae) was thrown in prison for more than ten years, because she had publicly confessed, under psychological duress, that she murdered a young boy. In fact, Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), the real killer, coerced Geum-ja into turning herself in if she doesn't want to see her newborn girl dead. Now that she's on parole, Geum-ja wants to see her daughter, Jenny (Kwon Yea-young), who had been adopted by an Australian couple. Besides, she's also starting to put in motion her plan to kill Mr. Baek, a plan that she prepared back in the days when she was in prison.

Although Lady Vengeance is clearly more fast-paced than Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, it's pointless to deny that there are a few long periods at the beginning of the film. Moreover, this goes without saying that the film looks structured like any Hollywood action film: the heroine finds the villain and runs after him. Beyond such an observation, Lady Vengeance manages to transform this simple structure of storyline into a valuable asset. Of course, this can be seen through Park Chan-wook ability to cut back in forth between the present tense and flashbacks in order to show us how Geum-ja's personality evolves and how she plans her revenge.

Secondly, as the story moves fluidly forward, the film becomes an interesting universal reflection on the possible failures of a legal system through the character of detective Choi. As the film points it out, is it always easy to find the real murderers for specific crimes? When that question is answered, Park's script leaves us to the mercy of characters who, despite not saying a lot of things, convey a lot with their nuances. As a matter of fact, while the film depicts people's condemnation of of violence in general, the film also points out our deepest fantasy, that is killing the murderer of our own child (if we were in that situation). Strange double standard, isn't it? As long as you accept the improbability of the story, you'll find the story amazing.

Of course, when the film is not dealing with the dark corners of normal human nature, it's a beautiful film about the permanent presence of love in an imperfect world. Like many films in the repertoire of Asian extreme cinema, Lady Vengeance is dark, provocative, not gratuitously violent and smartly character-driven. Although I wouldn't recommend for people with weak stomach, I would gladly recommend it to those who are looking for a gallery of interesting characters.

Rating: 4/5



Origin:South Korea (2005)
Length:112 minutes
Genre:Thriller
Screenplay:Jeong Seo-gyeong and Park Chan-wook
Director:Park Chan-wook
Starring:
Lee Yeong-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kwon Yea-young and Nam Il-woo


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