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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 15.09%
Average: 28.3%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Lady Vengeance
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by William Goss

"Woman Scorned, Hold The Fury"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL: Revenge is a dish best served cold, and South Korean writer/director Chan-wook Park has been more than willing to keep on serving up hearty helpings to audiences over the past few years. Beginning with the decent 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance' and continuing with the brilliant 'Oldboy,' Park now concludes his revenge trilogy with '(Sympathy for) Lady Vengeance,' which initially tastes like just another reheated revenge thriller, touches of dark humor notwithstanding, but eventually boils over with a rather heady revelation and lingers on with quite the rich aftertaste.

After spending thirteen years in prison for a child murder she knows she didn’t commit, Lee Geum-Ja (the immensely captivating Yeong-ae Lee) swiftly puts in motion a plan to settle the score with the true kidnapper and killer. She cashes in favors with her fellow cellmates and simultaneously sets out to retrieve her daughter from her foster parents, all before finally setting out to punish the real culprit (Oldboy star Min-sik Choi).

The majority of the film unfolds in traditional Park fashion, as the serene yet strong victim with a vengeance encounters an elaborate plot, makes for moments of gallows humor, and soon faces a moral conflict despite their long-brewing desire for retribution. As such, the first two-thirds of the film feel like a colorful yet compacted narrative mirroring not just Park’s previous films, but most revenge films in general. However, just when it seems that the conflict has come to a climax, he pulls out the rug from under the audience by taking a moment and examining the significant consequences of carrying out such payback as he hadn’t before. Whereas this female-driven tale of revenge may mildly parallel a certain recent rampage of revenge, Kill Bill, right down to the fierce maternal motives, Lady Vengeance ends up counteracting it more often than not. On one hand, Tarantino’s gratuitous gore may have indeed proven to provide quite the visceral thrill, but on the other, the majority of Park’s showcased violence takes place off-camera yet is still striking on an emotional level given its narrative context.

The whole film is executed with a measured grace, perhaps an extension of Lee’s own poised performance, with effortless cinematography bringing a sort of beauty to the ugliest truths of such a world, while static shots and spot-on editing make for several inspired visual punchlines. The thematic elements that compose the finale’s circumstances are treated delicately, with a genuine lack of exploitation that a lesser filmmaker would find difficult to avoid. It took Tarantino two whole movies to establish distinct yet accompanying tones in his saga; Park, however, succeeds on two tiers within two hours, a remarkable dramatic feat that can only come off well with the proper ingredients behind and before the camera.

'Lady Vengeance' seems to contain a five-act structure more so than the traditional three, although its earlier portions do create a nearly contained revenge thriller, albeit a slightly hollow and underwhelming one. However, just when the story should end, consequence rears its ugly head to compelling effect. The journey is interesting, to be sure, but the destination does manage to compensate for it somewhat, bringing an altogether satisfying culmination to both this tale of kind-hearted Ms. Geum-Ja and Park’s whopper of a tragic trilogy.

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originally posted: 08/11/06 17:18:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2006 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/17/12 Matthew Thompson Dalldorf Eric, do not compare this to 'Kill Bill!' 5 stars
8/12/11 jiropan highly recommended 5 stars
5/19/11 kris Snider is completety misjudging this violent and profound gem. 5 stars
4/09/11 donkey hump Eric D. Snider missed the point completely . 5 stars
1/19/11 moose rapper Disturbing, funny and sharp as a tack 5 stars
1/12/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess My favorite in the trilogy 5 stars
8/11/09 menten concluding chapter of vengeance trilogy. perfect! 5 stars
4/23/08 Nathalie N Fine, Stylish, Moving... 5 stars
10/25/06 Pritchett You're right, it's BETTER than OLDBOY. 5 stars
9/21/06 malcolm good, but no 'Oldboy' 3 stars
9/14/06 Stubby I thought it was the best of the three, but yeah it's nothing like KB. 5 stars
9/04/06 K.Sear The weakest of the three yet still enjoyable. To compare it to "Kill Bill" is ludicrous. 4 stars
8/13/06 Harold Call me nuts, but...the best of the three! Park is a genius!!!! 5 stars
7/16/06 Nightjorn Uh, Eric..."Mr. Vengeance" came first...and it was better than "Oldboy." 4 stars
7/15/06 Alfred Guy Not as riveting as the first two. 3 stars
10/02/05 David Ehrlich best film of the year 5 stars
9/28/05 E. Northam Wicked black comedy at times; provocative with disturbing and intense moments 3 stars
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  DVD: 16-Mar-2010

  10-Feb-2006 (18)


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