Lady Vengeance

The final installment in Korean writer-director Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance Trilogy" is marginally less sadistic than SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002) and OLDBOY (2003) but delivers an equally intense emotional wallop. It begins with the release of Lee Guem-ja (Lee Young-ae) after 14 years of imprisonment for kidnapping and murdering a small boy. Guem-ja's...read more

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The final installment in Korean writer-director Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance Trilogy" is marginally less sadistic than SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002) and OLDBOY (2003) but delivers an equally intense emotional wallop. It begins with the release of Lee Guem-ja (Lee Young-ae) after 14 years of imprisonment for kidnapping and murdering a small boy. Guem-ja's arrest caused a media sensation — she was a soft-spoken schoolgirl whose angelic demeanor stood in stark contrast to her crime, and she subsequently gained a jailhouse reputation for kindness and good works. But when she's met at the prison gates by a preacher bearing a traditional plate of white tofu, symbolizing the start of a new, blameless life, she dashes it to the ground. As Geum-ja contacts the network of women who owe her favors, flashbacks gradually reveal the true circumstances surrounding her crime: Impregnated and abused by schoolteacher Mr. Baek (OLDBOY star Choi Min-sik, cast with superlative irony), whose placid demeanor conceals an unrepentant sociopath, Geum-ja reluctantly helped him abduct the boy — Baek held her own toddler hostage to ensure her compliance — but had nothing to do with his murder. Baek framed her and, once Geum-ja was safely behind bars, cruelly surrendered her little daughter to an overseas adoption agency. Geum-ja spent her years in prison surreptitiously righting wrongs against fellow inmates, patiently learning the skills and accumulating the contacts that would permit her to take her own revenge. A former cell mate gives the newly released Geum-ja a room beneath her beauty shop, and Geum-ja systematically finds a job, lines up accomplices and weapons, and reestablishes contact with her daughter, Seung-shin (Park Yi-jeong), now an angry teenager who speaks no Korean — she was adopted by an Australian couple — and deeply resents her mother for abandoning her. Geum-ja begins laying an elaborate trap for Baek, only to discover that his transgressions are far greater than she imagined and that her vengeance must be recalibrated to include the others against whom he committed life-shattering offenses. Breathtakingly stylish and hauntingly sad, LADY VENGEANCE is a distaff variation on SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, pulling off the same high-wire delicate balance of humor, horror, bleakly ironic twists of fate and painful glimmers of beauty. It concludes Park's trilogy on a dual note of circular tragedy and fragile hope, while working equally well as an introduction to his universe of retribution and repentance or as a stand-alone thriller with a darkly feminist twist.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The final installment in Korean writer-director Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance Trilogy" is marginally less sadistic than SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002) and OLDBOY (2003) but delivers an equally intense emotional wallop. It begins with the release of Lee Gu… (more)

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