While I’m not the biggest fan of Asian cinema, I admit that Chan-Wook Park’s revenge trilogy has been one that has consistently surprised and challenged me, while keeping things fun. The first film – 2002’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance was a ballsy, no-holds-barred film that was not afraid to shock, but the thing was that the shocks almost always had a reason to be there and I personally love it when the violence/sex is not simply there to be there, but to serve a purpose. Also there were the creative use of special effects, also used for a point and with a purpose. The next film – 2003’s Oldboy wasn’t as successful as the first in conserving the eye candy, but it still turned out to be a good film, and deeper than most action thrillers, although labelig it as that is an insult. Now comes the third part – Lady Vengeance. This is probably the most violent of the three, but it’s also the prettiest, although I must say that sometimes it’s tough to tell.
Lady Vengeance tells the story of a 19-year-old girl by the name of Geum-ja Lee, who is sent to prison for the murder of a child which was actually committed by Mr. Baek – an accomplice of hers. While in prison she finds out that she has been taken advantage of and decides to induce a lot of pain on the people that did it to her. In addition to carefully planning it out, she also befriens her fellow prisoners, and when she gets out of the prison to start up her violent revenge spree, they join her. From then on, the violence begins and Park shows it all.
What I really like about each film in Park’s trilogy is how he divides each into two parts, not always in setting because settings usually vary, but he divides his films thematically and sometimes technically. The first half of Lady Vengeance feels very much laid-back. It does have character development and it focuses on the girl forming a relationship with the other prisoners. That feeling of apathy in the first part of the film though, definitely pays of and makes the violent to a fault, second part a lot more enjoyable, because it evens the film out.
Still, if you watch this only for the violence, there is a chance you won’t like this. With this final film, Park indulges himself into thematic material and puts in the forefront of the movie. He tries to go deep and find answers about the need for revenge and sometimes even its morality. I actually though that this was a good change for the series (although it is a little late to change it up in the last movie isn’t it?), because it does make this a film I can indulge myself just tryingto figure out what the people in the film actually mean.
A negative to this thematic indulgence is that Park frequently doesn’t explain plot points. He doesn’t answer the essential whys and hows, but simply shows the things that are important to the film. In a way, this type of under-explanation might be welcomed by someaudience members, but Park’s egotistical way of wanting to do only what he wants to do, which he presumes needs no explanation smacks of pretensiousness which can be deadly for any film. Granted, that negative is nowhere potent enough to the overall message the movie is attempting to send, so it didn’t ruin the experience for me that much.
the acting in this film as in any Park film is top notch. It’s amazing to me how park keeps finding good actors for his trilogy, especially when most of them are newcomers. At times i think that Park is the one who should get the credit for the good acting in his films, but the actors here are so good, I could recommend this film on it alone. Yes, there is some over-acting, but thankfully, unlike in Oldboy, it isn’t during a key scene. Overall though, if I pick on the acting, I’m being way too tough, so i won’t.
The original score here is very good and emotional, although at times composer Yeong-wook Jo does tend to make it just a rumble in the background that is there just so the film isn’t completely silent. But the look of the film has no faults. The colors are many and the shots are beautiful and stylish. the special effects inserted here and there are even better than the ones in Oldboy and the film feels very epic overall. Its flow is also good, and it’s amazing how within 10 minutes of eachother there are scenes that will either stare at the screen with wonder (the scene in the snow) or make you look on in disgust (the scene where she shoots a totally innocent and cute puppy, after which she eats it).
I think, if you look at the state of Asian cinema, it gets better and better every year. art house-type films like this one get a lot more mainstream, and better in quality. I won’t be surprised if one day, Asian films got wide releases here in the U.S. So, if you’re looking for one of the better films to come out of that continent in quite a while, you should definitely check this out, and when this comes out on DVD you should get the complete trilogy and watch the movies back-to-back-to-back. I mean, they are so watchable. i don’t even know how else to describe it.