Reviews & Counting
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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance(2005)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Chan-wook Park

Yeong-ae Lee/Geum-ja Lee
Min-sik Choi/Mr. Baek
7 10
Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) has been in jail for 13 years, taking the fall for some dude she was associated with who killed a kid. For 13 years she’s been hatching her revenge plan and now that she’s out of the Lesbo pen, she will have it. Payback ensues and as more details behind the crime are revealed, even more payback ensues. I love payback!
Ahhh revenge a theme that I so relate to! Ahhh “art’ a term that has a definition but yet doesn’t really have one where beauty is in the eye of the…well…you know the rest of that clichéd expression.. And Ahhh director Chan-wook Park, a man who knows of the two aforementioned terms so damn well that he made 3 films about them.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is the final entry of Chan-wook Park’s “revenge” trilogy, which began with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (I have yet to see that one) and was followed by the ASTOUNDING Oldboy. The bad news is that Park has taken the artsy vibe 10 steps further here with his final installment. The film is not as accessible as Oldboy and will leave the more common audience member in the dust (including me).The good news is that Sympathy for Lady Vengeance was still a heartfelt tale of vengeance; atonement and redemption told in a way that only Park could.

There were no rules here! Symbolism, spirit apparitions and a sly use of offbeat humor, were applied throughout to tell this sordid tale and it somehow worked for me most of the time. To be honest, it took me a while to capish exactly what was going on in this ugly playpen. But as the film moved forward, I got it more and more. It surely inspired me to rack that noggin like a rattle that the striking imagery presented had to be the most stunning that I’ve seen in a long time. Everything from the peculiar/colorful set designs to Park’s infectious scene transitions to his ambitious shots made me want to be involved, hence I did what I had to do to get in there and get it.

Then there was the casting of Yeong-ae Lee as Geum-ja Lee which was pure genius. The actress successfully emanated, expressed and executed all of the powerful layers that the part demanded. Add to all that: ugly violence (Having to do with kids), a winning bold sense of humor when it came to sexuality (that Doggystyle scene owned!) and a braveness in exploring those deep dark corners of the human psyche which had me thinking long and hard (insert your own pun here) afterwards and you get a thought provoking, deliciously cruel, slightly offensive and definitely subversive piece of work.

On the blah angle of things, either I’m a moron or the film was way too aloof for its own good. I opt for both statements. Also was it me or did it go on for too long? I was getting antsy in places. Lastly much like many other Asian films, this one suffered from the not knowing when to end syndrome, an illness that drives me f*cking up the wall. The flick capped off two endings too late in my ridiculous opinion (With the final frame bugging me in its quirkiness...not what I was hoping for). If a Fade To Black would have happened on the “Smile” I would have been a much happier man.

In this scene of remakes, sequels, remakes of sequels pretending to be remakes, PG 13 on screen that becomes an R on DVD and an R in the editing room that becomes a PG 13 on the theatres; its refreshing to see a film that comes from one man’s heart not a iceberg cold corporation looking for the quick buck. You looking for a watch that bends breaks and redefines the rules? Sympathy for Lady Vengeance will stroke you right!

We get cut off fingers, a splashy head shot, some stabbing with various sharp objects and lots of red splats. NICE!
Yeong-ae Lee (Geum-ja LeeO) had the look, the talent and the intensity for the role. Priceless performance! Its official, Min-sik Choi (Mr. Baek) is the Korean Gary Oldman and he owned here in his understated yet compelling performance.
T & A
We get two naked chicks, one giving oral to the other. We also get one girl’s butt as she’s doggystyled over a kitchen table. The ladies get…I don’t remember…see the film and find out gals.
Chan-wook Park is a visual genius with every inch of this film being a jaw dropping work of beauty to gawk at. Plays with colors, unique sets designs, stylish cam angles…I cannot stress enough how arresting this picture looked. It has to be seen to be believed.
We get a moving Violin and Piano driven score that supported the images at hand perfectly.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance fulfilled the more ambitious and artsy artery lodged in my deadbeat heart. Poetic, sharp, symbolic, visually dazzling, well acted, unpredictable, ugly, violent yet comical, this was a rare sit down. One that buzzed senses that I don’t use too often. The film did lose me due to the way it dialogued, its occasionally testing pace and its "a little too late for my liking" conclusion, but with that out of the way, if you’re tired of the mainstream and yearn for a flick that’s a tad purer and more striving than the norm; ring up this lady, she’ll satisfy and challenge you with a vengeance... for better and for worse.
The Korean title for the film is: "Chinjeolhan geumjassi"

Seo-Gyeong Jeong and Chan-wook Park wrote the screenplay.