Hang on to your seat belts. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is the last part of Chan Park's incredible trilogy on Vengeance. His trilogy is a fantastic ride and with Lady V ends with a wild journey. The film kicks off with a startling visual - a group dressed in Father Christmas costumes greets the release of a woman prisoner, Geung-Ja. She took the fall for the murder of a young boy when Baek, a teacher and child serial killer, kidnapped Geum-Ja's daughter, threatening to kill the daughter unless Geung-Ja took the fall for his murder of the boy. Geung-Ja having served her sentence becomes Lady Vengeance, on a mission of vengeance and atonement for the boy's murder.
If you've seen Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance & Old Boy, expect shocks, violence, blood. Yet Lady V is the warmest and most human of the Trilogy. Lady V, unlike the men in the first two films, seeks redemption and atonement for a crime she didn't commit. She threatens to cut off her finger in front of the murdered boy's parents. She is a cold, calculating Lady Macbeth - but a Lady Macbeth on the side of the angels. Her female jail mates consider her the good Samaritan. Once free she is different she's isolated, she manipulates, she hides her emotions, she takes a young teenage boy as a sex object. With her daughter she is remote. She only shows conflict, confronting Baek.
She makes Barbara Stanwyk in Double Indemnity look like a fairy princess. Lee Young-Ae as Lady V gives an outstanding performance which goes from cold and calculating to warm and sympathetic. With her red eye shadow she dominates the screen.
The story keeps you on your toes with its characters her fellow jail inmates, Baek the Teacher, the Baker, the Australian foster parents who took care of her daughter. The only time we meet ordinary people are the Parents whose kids were murdered by Baek. Lady V finds she can't kill Baek, she shoots him in the toes. She steps aside and allows the Parents to decide. There is a great scene when the parents kill him. Park is asking us what would we do in such a situation. He forces us take part in the experience.
Lady V shoulders the parents guilt and seeks atonement. She finds a state of grace with her daughter, like in a fairy tale, among snow flakes.
Park has moved forward as a filmmaker, experimenting in style. Each film in the trilogy is different. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a hard boiled crime thriller, Old Boy has a mythical quality with its touch of the surreal, Lady Vengeance is a fairy tale, her adventures, her meeting the monsters.
At times broadly comical (the jail scenes when a hard core Lesbian slips on a bar of soap), at times violent and funny (when the Parents take turns to kill off Baek), at times it has a dreamy quality (the opening scenes with the group of Father Christmas). He mixes styles flashing between past and present, like in a stream of consciousness using brutal editing, then rendering a scene in a single smooth take. He's master of his tools.
Park is the most adventurous filmmaker around. He goes to places where American films fear to tread with his mix of fantasy, the absurd, the real, the comic tragic. He's not into feeding us a fast film takeaway. He challenges us to come to our own conclusions about his story, his characters, his theme. The only American equivalent is Tarantino. However Tarantino relies on past films for inspiration. Park gets his inspiration from his observations on the here and now.
Lady V is a natural conclusion to his trilogy. Park takes us places not visited in the first two films. Lady V is the most interesting character in the series. It may not be as riveting as Old Boy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance where he really gets inside the minds of his protagonists and antagonists. We feel we know and understand them. Although Lady V is his most interesting character she remains too much of a mystery. The characters in this story are not as compelling as in the first two films - there is no emotional investment in Baek the serial killer and the Parents.
This is the best trilogy around. In Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Park is experimenting with story and style. Old Boy is the most complete film in the trilogy. With Lady V, Park is again experimenting. Lady V is a great way to round off the trilogy. Undoubtedly his next film will take us to another realm of film making.
Director - Po-Chih Leong
The Vengeance trilogy can be seen on Tartan Video - a great set with interviews with the director on each of the movies.
Order these and other movies on DVD from Tartan Video at: www.tartanvideousa.com
U.K.-based Tartan Films, formed in 1982 by Hamish McAlpine, is one of Britain's most respected distributors of films, both to the theatrical market and on home video. The company has released more than 300 films in that country, including such acclaimed titles as The Cooler, Super Size Me, Capturing the Friedmans, Secretary and The Triplets of Belleville.
The U.S. arm of Tartan, headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif., was launched in July 2004 with an eclectic slate of films from established auteurs and up-and-coming filmmakers. The company has both theatrical and home video divisions with plans to release 10 theatrical films in 2005 and over 30 titles on DVD.
Look for a cutting-edge slate of innovative, acclaimed and award-winning feature films to be released theatrically by Tartan U.S.A. and to the home entertainment market by Tartan Video. From American independents' fare to major film festival winners to the best of international cinema, they are films from around the world that entertain, provoke and inspire...and are sometimes controversial.
Five out of five corpses