Friday, November 2nd, 2012 at 11:30 am
Lady Vengeance Netflix Streaming DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Starring Lee Young Ae, Choi Min-sik, Kwon Yea-young
Originally Released: July 29, 2005
Lady Vengeance is what I call an evergreen movie – one of those films with high value in the re-watchability area. In other words, you can always come back to it and view this movie over and over again, still enjoy it, and in some cases, get something new from the experience.
Third in Park Chan-wook‘s Vengeance Trilogy, Lady Vengeance follows the story of Lee Geum-ja, who is framed for the crime of kidnapping and murdering a little boy. Innocent of the crime, she is imprisoned for numerous years, during an incarceration in which she develops many connections and loyalties with existing inmates. Upon her release, she begins to follow a long-developed plan to uncover the man responsible for the crimes and seek vengeance upon him.
While on the surface, this seems like a basic revenge movie, Lady Vengeance is so much more than that. As most trilogies follow a three-part story, Chan-wook’s masterpiece does not, instead being three separate stories that thematically explore similar concepts. Lady Vengeance is the pinnacle of this storytelling, with a depth of exploration and visually stunning palette leading the plot to an intense and emotional crescendo in the form of its conclusion and climax.
To be perfectly honest, all of the performances in Lady Vengeance are stellar. The standout performance is by the leading role of Lee Geum-ja, played by Lee Young Ae – she brings forth a cold detachment for her character at the beginning of the film, which evolves into a depth that simply cannot be explained with minimal wording and must be seen to be believed. A memorable, and iconic performance not to be missed.
Choi Min-sik plays the main nemesis we are seeking vengeance against in this movie, named Mr. Baek. Min-sik had previously played the title character in the second of the Vengeance movies, Oldboy, but in Lady Vengeance he is a completely different person, both in demeanor and in existentialism. His performance is commendable in this film, and just as memorable, though is overshadowed and eclipsed by his extraordinary display of brilliance in Oldboy.
Plot-wise, Lady Vengeance is perhaps the deepest and most thorough of the three movies. Chan-wook explores the concepts and emotions and humanity with greater depth and incredible symbolism in this third installment than in Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance or Oldboy; which works greatly to the impact of this film in terms of it being a stand-alone epic revenge movie.
The downfall here is the initial impact of the sensory overload from the first two movies, particularly Oldboy that layers an unfortunate over-expectation for the final movie. Despite having big shoes to fill, Lady Vengeance is a masterpiece of incredible layered writing and plot-development, taking a non-linear, non-chronological approach to the storytelling.
There’s almost a grace to this installment of the Vengeance trilogy though. From the colors of clashing blood crimsons and pale whites during the opening sequence (which rivals the opening sequence for Dexter I might add), through to the visual strength of the camera work, right up to the end of movie, there’s a touch of elegance through every element of this movie. Despite the violence, it maintains this – and provides an astounding commentary on the clashing yet meshing dichotomy of violence and beauty, how opposing they are, yet how attracted to both of them we are as humans.
Park Chan-wook employs a wide range of camera work and styles throughout the movie, including touches of artificial film grain and desaturation, which work very strongly, and come across to me as homage to the wild creative visual work of Quentin Tarantino. There are many artsy metaphorical scenes, maintaining the high quality of visuals mentioned above. My favorite sequence is the Australian one – which was a delightful surprise to see in the film.
While Oldboy is my favorite of Chan-wook’s trilogy, you cannot pass by Lady Vengeance for its incredible and brilliantly crafted storytelling and significant development in the visual display of a story. This is a must-see experience, and if you’ve never seen any of the Vengeance trilogy movies, you need to do so right now.