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

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Movie Review: I Saw the Devil [2010]

I Saw the Devil [2010]

I Saw the Devil [2010]
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Genre: Crime/Drama/Horror
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Brutal, disgusting and unbelievably violent.

In other words, another badass Korean revenge thriller.

I Saw the Devil personifies evil. First there is the villain, a batshit insane psychopath named Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi, aka Oldboy) who delights in murdering and raping young women. Actually, he doesn’t just murder them, he decapitates and dismembers them without showing even the slightest bit of remorse. He is one horrifying dude.

I Saw the Devil [2010]

One snowy evening, Kyung-chul finds a woman stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. He offers to help, but the woman politely tells him that a tow truck is on the way. He sees this as an opportunity, however, and brutally attacks her, eventually killing her as well.

This leads us to evil personified, part two. It turns out that this woman’s fiancee is secret agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), another crazy motherfucker who vows to track the serial killer down and deliver the same amount of pain that he brought his victims. With the help of modern technology, Soo-hyun plants a tracking system on the murderer and begins to play a cruel game of cat-and-mouse with him, gradually maiming him along the way.

Yeah, it’s pretty fucked up.

The sheer amount of gore and violence in this film is something to behold, and it takes a strong stomach to make it through. The good news is that it doesn’t reach the levels of the popular American torture porn flicks; instead, it offers a meaningful storyline that feels like it could actually happen. Beyond messed up, but still believable (though I have to wonder if some of the characters could actually stay alive after the sickening head bashing they endure).

I Saw the Devil [2010]

If you can tolerate the violence, there is a lot to like here. The movie is beautifully shot, with some truly stunning camerawork, and it has incredible acting. Min-sik Choi is completely insane as Kyung-chul, and he delivers an absolutely haunting performance that will stay with you for a long time. I was also quite impressed with Lee Byung-hun, who was tremendous as Soo-hyun. He shows a great deal of sadness after his fiancee’s death, but gradually changes into a tough-nosed motherfucker as he begins to slip into the mind of a monster. Powerful stuff.

I did have a couple of qualms with the movie. One, it runs a little too long, clocking in at a hefty 141 minutes. A good 20 minutes or so could have been taken out to make for better pacing. Also, what was up with the police in the film? They were acting as idiots most of the time, having no clue as to what was going on or how to handle things. The opening sequence shares evidence of this right away, as the police allow the media to go crazy and start taking pictures of a decapitated head in the ditch. What the fuck?

Still, minor issues aside, I Saw the Devil is a compelling movie, certainly one I will not soon be forgetting. This isn’t meant for everyone, obviously, but if you can deal with the excess brutality it is definitely worth looking into. As far as revenge flicks go, this is a great one. Now I need to dig into Jee-wong Kim’s back catalog.

8/10