Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kwon Yea-young, Kim Si-hu, Nam Il-woo
Rating: M18
Year Made: 2005







Languages: Korean
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Widescreen
Sound: Korean Dolby Digital 2.0
Running Time: 1 hr 52 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: Comstar Entertainment




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.


People call her the ‘Kind-hearted Geum-ja’. Barely some could remember she was given another nickname - “The Witch”. She has done some terrible things. But as it was justifiable and so they celebrated her like a redeemed angel. And they wished nothing but the best for her.

To Guem-ja, to justify is everything. Justification has been on her mind for the past thirteen years she has been committed away for a crime she didn’t do. It was true she was responsible in some ways that their hostage died. The hostage was five, and it was thirteen years ago. To the nation, Guem-ja was a cruel kidnapper and a savage murderer, but to her friends, she was their ‘Kind-hearted Geum-ja’.

Guem-ja returned after her prison stint, she was a changed person. Everyone she knew commented how she was so different back then and how sweet and loving Guem-ja had been. Some even asked her, ‘What with the red eye shadow?’ This newly released Guem-ja was unfeeling, uninterested and unkind. It hit them that all that thirteen years; Guem-ja was only helping them with an ulterior motive.

Director Park Chan Wook wowed the Cannes in 2004 with ‘Old Boy’, winning the Grand Prix. His lust for vengeance and violence literally blew me away with the film’s social offensive, yet engaging storytelling and cinematography. Park Chen Wook who was a philosophy major often questions his characters’ desecrating integrity while losing oneself in self-righteous and self-justification, not to mention ours too. Too long we have been living in oppression, humiliation and self-loathing when we had been taken advantages of. Fearing negative repercussions and ramifications, we suffered in morbid silence, with our antagonists scot-free and guiltless. Park Chan Wook’s manifestation of paying back in an insane hybrid of violence and style are both intoxicating and delicious to experience. His characters played out what we didn’t dare to do – to lay destruction upon their wake to their enemies.

His latest installment, his third ‘revenge’ feature reunites us not only with Lee Yeong-ae that he made famous from ‘Joint Security Area’ (2000), but with every other characters from all his two other movies like ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’ (2002) and ‘Old Boy’ (2003). The enigmatic Choi Min-sik who was last seen as the raging monster seeking lex talionis, returned as Guem-ja’s adversary. Famous Korean stars Song Kang-oh and Shin Ha-kyun (Both from Mr. Vengeance and JSA) also make their blink-and-you-will-miss em’ cameos.

Unlike ‘Old Boy’ where Oh Dae-su scoured to justify his confinement, while trying to put together the pieces of helter-skelter memories and information, Guem-ja had everything planned out and played out meticulously in her mind like fine clockwork during her imprisonment. She knew exactly what to anticipate, how to execute and considered all possibilities to intensify her vengeance. Unlike Oh Dae-su’s baleful rummage into his peril, Guem-ja wants everything to be beautiful; she buys her time and waits for the perfect opportunity to strike. Unlike Oh Dae-su’s journey to revelation, Guem-ja seeks absolution.

‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’ develops through compelling cinematography with subtle metaphors contrasting their turbulences – Guem-ja wiped away her signature red eye shadow after Mr. Baek’s death, signifying her war is over, the prisoners’ comforting dreams, the blackened cake Guem-ja baked for the parents after their self-administered justice to symbolize their unbecoming, or that the boy she kidnapped materialized into an adult, gagged her apologies and exited with a smile, encouraging Guem-ja to outgrow her guilt and that she was forgiven.

Though less action-filled and restrained visual shock compared to ‘Old Boy’, Park Chan Wook showed that he matured as a storyteller and as a director with ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’, with a strong remorseless direction and a more credible ending this time round. Park Chan Wook have complete his trilogy of vendetta, proving him an intelligent filmmaker whose productions dissect boldly in the edges of moral, ethic, philosophy, art and violence, rising as one of Asia’s finest director.





The movie is presented in Korea Dolby Digital 2.0 with a 16 X 9 Widescreen with Chinese and English subtitles. After watching the show in utter confusion with its translation from the Chinese subtitles just five minutes into it, I had to switch to the English subtitles. It felt right this time.



Review by Ang Wei Kiat



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This review is made possible with the kind support from Comstar


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