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About me: Hola! All reads, rates and r... er, comments greatly appreciated ... :-)

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Anything but Sweet

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06.01.2010

Advantages:
Beautifully realised, mesmerising sounds and visuals, outstanding performances .

Disadvantages:
Rather disturbing in resolution .

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Story

Characters / Performances

Soundtrack

How does it compare to others by the same director?

Value for Money

Did you enjoy it?Loved it

Special EffectsOutstanding

How does it compare to similar films?Outstanding

What format are you reviewing?Film only

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How do you follow one of the best and most successful films your country - indeed, world cinema - has produced? In the case of Oldboy director Park Chan-wook, you follow much the same path you've already trodden. This is probably doing a disservice to Lady Vengeance, though - for as much as there are similarities with its visceral, shocking predecessor, it is a very different movie, and when it forms the third part of the Vengeance Trilogy, there's only so much room for thematic flexibility.

The three films are unrelated, save for their associations with revenge. As such, there's no need to watch the first films of the trilogy in order to understand this one, although in missing Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Oldboy, you're missing a good film and a great film, in that order.

Lee Geum-ja is released from prison early on account of her exceptional behaviour, having been sentenced for the murder of a young child thirteen years earlier. A popular, caring character inside prison, she earned the moniker "kind-hearted Geum-ja" (the original Korean title of the film). Once she exits the prison gates, however, she undertakes the most iconic of the film's many visual transformations, donning blood-red mascara, a leather coat and high-heels; and sets out in search of vengeance ("I don't want to look kind-hearted", she says).

Vengeance for Geum-ja (the sensational Lee Young-ae) is tracking down the man who framed her (Choi Min-sik, of Oldboy, moving delectably from protagonist to antagonist), recovering her lost family and exacting an obsessive plan she has been brewing for thirteen years.

If the plot is simple, the execution is anything but. In searching for her object of vengeance, Geum-ja enlists the help of her former inmates, calling in favours she built up during her years of benevolence and generosity inside. Through a series of flashbacks, director Park tells the stories of these women and the debts they owe Geum-ja. The style of storytelling is intriguing, and builds up a level of detail which immerses you in the tale, although it's a fraction disorientating first time around - the way in which the full extent of the plot is gradually drip-fed to the viewer makes it equally difficult to fully appreciate Lady Vengeance on initial viewing.

This first time, it's the perfectly imagined and realised visuals which will strike you, and the shocking scenes towards the climax that fit in with Park's previous films in terms of hard-hitting, but not gratuitous violence. The soundscape too, is impeccably judged - and a little unusual, if all the more striking for it - with a distinctly baroque feel to the music which often contrasts quite starkly with the on-screen action.

Lady Vengeance isn't as graphic as Oldboy by any means, although it's probably every bit as shocking in terms of subject matter. It isn't either the relentless crusade of revenge one might expect from the synopsis, with a pace that rises and falls, and confines the actual retribution to the film's endgame. Intelligent, moving and quite beautifully realised, this may not have its antecedent's raw impact, but is a quite wonderful successor that is probably best appreciated with repeat viewings.

The film was originally conceived as fading gradually to grayscale, reflecting the journey the characters make in search of vengeance. Although this version was ultimately rejected by the director, it is still available on the Blu-Ray release, and the film retains this increasingly sombre and reflective mood even without the visual reinforcement. It may not endure quite as strongly as Oldboy, but Lady Vengeance is in many ways an equally impressive film; a highly stylised meeting-place of shock and substance that brings a quite exceptional trilogy to a fitting close.
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Comments about this review »

flyingllamas 07.01.2010 13:15

Very well reviewed-another on my to watch list.

Ruby.xo 06.01.2010 21:48

Well reviewed, I haven't seen this but would like to now x

sunmeilan 06.01.2010 18:50

Superb film, as are the other two. I think you're right though, Oldboy has the edge. It's certainly the one I remember most clearly.

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Lady Vengeance [DVD]

Lady Vengeance [DVD]

It's rare that a movie combines extreme violence, visual panache, and gut-wrenching ... more

emotion, but Lady Vengeance is just such a movie.
Geum-ja Lee (the lovely Yeong-ae Lee, Joint
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Lady Vengeance ? DVD

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Lady Vengeance ? DVD

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After thirteen and half years in prison for kidnapping and murdering the boy Park Won-mo ... more

Geum-ja Lee is released and tries to fix her life.
She finds a job in a bakery; she orders the
manufacturing of a special weapon; she reunites
with her daughter wh...

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Product Information »

DVD Description

South Korean maestro Park Chan-wook concludes his Revenge Trilogy with the operatic, mesmerizing SYMPATHY FOR LADY ...

Product details

Actor(s) Yeong-Ae Lee, Min-Sik Choi, Si-Hu Kim, Yea-Young Kwon, Yeong-Ae Lee, Min-Sik Choi, Si-Hu Kim, Yea-Young Kwon
Director(s) Chan-Wook Park, Chan-Wook Park
Genre Action & Adventure

Release details

DVD Region DVD
Studio(s) SONY DADC; LACE GROUP; PALISADES TARTAN; FUSION MEDIA SALES
Release date 08/05/2006

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