Movie Project #38: Lady Vengeance [2005]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Lady Vengeance [2005]

Lady Vengeance [2005]
Director: Park Chan-wook
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Starring: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi and Shi-hoo Kim
Runtime: 112 minutes

Revenge is a tried-and-true plot device in film, but rarely is this concept taken to the depths provided in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy. After two punishing yet brilliant films in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, Park closed out the trilogy with arguably his most stylish film yet: Lady Vengeance.

Lee Young Ae stars as Lee Geum-ja, a reformed female prisoner who was convicted for a crime she did not actually commit: the murder of a young boy. After years of good behavior and a total change in her spirituality, she is released earlier than expected. While others pester her as soon as he gets out, Geum-ja has just one thing on her mind: revenge.

Lady Vengeance [2005]

Her target is Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik, a.k.a Oh Dae-su from Oldboy), the actual murderer of the young child. On her quest for vengeance, Geum-ja also reunites with her teenage daughter, Jenny (Yea-young Kwon), who was threatened by Baek during the initial killing. The transition from prison to the real world is jarring, but Geum-ja is on a mission and there’s no way anything is going to stop her in her mind.

Lady Vengeance moves at a more methodical pace than its predecessors in the trilogy, and it takes some time to pick up on just what is happening. The first act of the film flips back and forth between the present and Geum-ja’s days in prison, and it becomes a tad confusing at times. However, the second act represents a major tonal shift, and the big revenge payoff is dramatic, bloody and unforgettable.

Lady Vengeance [2005]

As the most stylish film of the three, Lady Vengeance impresses visually. There are some truly stunning shots, many of which make fantastic use of color. Perhaps this is why the film takes its time in telling the story — so we can enjoy its sheer beauty.

It’s difficult to fully satisfy when forced to live up to the legacy provided by the amazing first two films of the trilogy, and perhaps Lady Vengeance suffers from these comparisons. I quite enjoyed the film overall, but it is clearly the weakest of the three. Regardless, it can be stated that Park Chan-wook knows how to go out with style, as the closing shot is one I will not be forgetting.

7.5/10

27 thoughts on “Movie Project #38: Lady Vengeance [2005]

    • Eric says:

      It’s not really an action flick — it’s more of a drama than anything — but it’s certainly worth seeing. The first two films are superior, but this is a strong series overall.

  1. Mark Walker says:

    Nice one Eric. I loved Oldboy but haven’t yet got around to seeing the other two. I must try and get hold of them. It’s not often you head anyone mentioning them, yet Oldboy is forever being talked about.

    • Eric says:

      Yeah, it’s a shame that everyone talks about Oldboy but forgets the other two in the series. For what it’s worth, I think Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the best of the bunch. Definitely look that one up when you get a chance.

  2. The Heretic says:

    My favorite film out of the Vengeance Trilogy! Young-ae Lee is one of my favorite Korean actresses, have been watching some of her stuff since the show she was on called “Jewel In The Palace”.

  3. John says:

    That’s funny. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the trilogy, but I thought it was the strongest of the three. The others were good stories- great, even- with some artistic flourishes, but I felt like this one took it to another level.

  4. Alex Withrow says:

    Interesting that this is the weakest of the three for you – it is by far my favorite. I just love the build up and how EVERYONE is in on it, and for so many goddamn years.

    You excited, nervous for Spike Lee’s Oldboy?

    • Eric says:

      I loved the payoff in this film, but I just wish it didn’t take so long to get there. Still, I quite enjoyed it overall, just not as much as the other two.

      Right now I’m pretty apathetic about the Oldboy remake. Great cast, but it’s just so…unnecessary. I don’t know, could be good. What do you think?

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