Publicity Stills of "Sympathy For Lady Vengeance"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

Genre: Action/Thriller
Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kwon Yea-young, Kim Si-hu, Nam Il-woo
RunTime: 1 hr 52 mins
Released By: Shaw & Festive Films
Rating: M18

Opening Day: 20 October 2005


Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae), a beautiful girl who cannot help but draw attention from all the men around her, becomes a public figure of notoriety when she is arrested and charged for the abduction and murder of a six year-old boy, at the age of only nineteen. Being so young and pretty, her horrific crime obsesses the media. They are shocked when Geum-ja confesses, and is sent to prison on a long-term sentence;

But now, 13 years have passed and in that time, Geum-ja has been the most hardworking and model prisoner, earning the nickname ‘kind-hearted Geum-ja’.

“Kind-hearted” Geum-ja, however, has not been idle during her time inside. For 13 years, she has plotted revenge against her former teacher, Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik). Her kindness while in “the joint” has paid off and has now gained her many friends and allies. Now that Geum-ja is getting out of jail, she is ready to put her carefully conceived plan into action, abetted by some of her former inmates.

Movie Review:

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is the final installment of Korean director, Park Chan-Woon’s vengeance trilogy (The vengeance trilogy consist of the critically acclaimed and controversial “Oldboy” and “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”). For the finale, He bought back Lee Young-ae whom he worked with before in his first successful movie “Joint Security Area” as the female protagonist instead of the male protagonist that was used in the previous two films about seeking vengeance.

The basic setup for this story was a simple and direct one. Geum-Ja (Lee Young-ae) was made a scapegoat by her teacher, Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), for the crime of kidnapping and murdering a five-year-old kid. Fast-forward thirteen and half years later, the seemingly reformed “Kind Hearted” Geum-Ja (Lee Young-ae) was released and is hell bent on carrying out her quest for revenge, which she has been preparing during her jail time.

Park Chan-Woon adopted an interestingly eccentric method of telling the flash back tales of Geum-Jin’s time in Jail and her past prior to her imprisonment. Park’s method of using surrealistic images was rather similar to the French Movie “Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain”, were the main story line is often interrupted by series of entertaining flash backs. Both films even share a similar comical scene consisting a character that was literally beaming with joy.

By infusing dark humour in this violent tale, “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” has less visceral effect than “Oldboy”. As in “Se7en”, most of the disturbing violent scene takes place off screen, making the effect of violence and not violence itself the driving force of this film. In a way it helps viewers who does not have a penchant for grotesque violence to be able to watch Geum-Jin dish out her revenge without turning away in disgust.

It’s couldn’t be a better time since Lee Young-ae had recently gained popularity with Asian viewers with her role as Chang Jin in the popular Korean period drama “Jewel in the Palace”. In many ways, Lee Young-ae’s character in this movie bore many similarities with Chang-Jin. Both characters are seeking justice to the sufferings they had to endure and both are just as equally resourceful in getting the justice done. There was even a joke in “Sympathy For Lady Vengeance” about the food that Geum-Jin prepared was fit for a king to consume as Chang Jin did in “Jewel of the Palace”.

But before you can get too comfortable with the kindhearted demure character that most viewers had associated her with, Lee Young-ae revealed the ruthless nature in Geum-Jin that would most likely surprise many of her fans. Now when you hear her first line in this movie, “Why don’t you go screw yourself”, you know that you will have hell of a performance from Lee Young-ae as an anti-heroine who desperately seeks redemption and revenge at the same time.

Another notable supporting cast in “Sympathy For Lady Vengeance” was the lead actor of “Oldboy”, Choi Min-sik. Doing a role reversal here from the victim role in “Oldboy”, the veteran actor plays Mr. Baek is able to convince the audience within a short amount of screen time that he capable of all sort of atrocious acts that he committed, just as those that was done to him in “Oldboy”.

“Sympathy For Lady Vengeance” packs a unique mix of comic flair with brutal tortures. This movie will prove to be another accolade for Park’s cinematic flair and storytelling. The endearing performance from Lee Young-ae would likely be able to delight and surprise many of her fans. Another Korean Movie that shouldn’t be missed.

Movie Rating:

(Revenge is a dish best served by this Lady Vengeance)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


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