Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (2005)
By: Devon B. on January 29, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Korean DD 5.1, Korean DTS 5.1. English Subtitles. 110 minutes
The Movie
Director: Chan-wook Park
Starring Seo-Gyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park Screenplay: Yeong-ae Lee
Music: Seung-hyeon Choi, Yeong-wook Jo, Seok-joo Na
Country: South Korea
AKA: Chinjeolhan geumjassi
Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is the third film in Park Chan-Wook's Revenge Trilogy. I got interested in the trilogy when I realised it was by the guy who'd made the brilliant, but somewhat slow, JSA. I started the trilogy with Oldboy, which certainly had its moments and isn't a bad film, but the key action set piece that so many people harped on about isn't really that good (compare it to the one take fight in Tom Yung Goong, and it looks really third rate), and the film was slow. I was still interested in the other films in the series, so checked out Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, which is better, but was still too slow. So, it was with some nervousness I approached Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, as I feared I was in for another slow film. My fear was justified.

Lady Vengeance opens all Christmassy, but don't go placing it on your shelf next to such holiday classics as Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Ordeal, or Reindeer Games straightaway. It is set in South Korea after all, so Christmas just isn't very prominent.

Lady Vengeance is about a young woman who 13 and a half years ago appeared to have kidnapped and murdered a small child. She was innocent, and in prison she started plotting her revenge against the person who really killed the kid and set her up to take the fall. Once she's released, she begins implementing her plan, with help from people she won over while in prison. Our heroine takes some EXTREME measures to gain her allies, at one point even resurrecting the kidney theme of Mr. Vengeance.

As I said, this is the third film in the trilogy, and frankly, I was a bit bored by this point. It's still exquisitely photographed, beautifully staged, and very well made, but I can only stand so many artistic images before something needs to happen. The jail scenes really didn't engage me, which left a good portion of the film as dull. While Lady Vengeance still has the nice touches of black humour found in the previous films, I didn't get a sense of building like I did in the other Park films, so I just found myself wanting it to be trimmed down in length.

To be fair, the film climaxes quite well, with echoes of M and a certain other well regarded work by Shakespeare, and the villain is quite creepy with unnerving motives. I wouldn't say Lady Vengeance has flashes of über violence like its predecessors, but there is some gritty footage of things happening to children. The performances are very strong, with the exception of the lead child. Even her, I'm willing to cut some slack, as she was speaking English and perhaps couldn't be as well directed because of that.

Keep an eye out for cameos by stars of the previous films in the trilogy.
Lady Vengeance is presented at a 2.35:1 ratio in a 16:9 enhanced print. The colours are vibrant, and aside from some deliberately "aged" sections, the print is very sharp and clean, allowing the viewer to revel in the exceptional cinematography.
Audio is available in Korean 5.1 or Korean DTS 5.1 mixes with optional English subs, and the 5.1 is what I viewed the film with. I found the track to be clear and crisp, but there wasn't a lot of need for 5.1, as there are far more quiet sections than loud ones, and even the ending isn't a full on action set piece.
Extra Features
The DVD has a comparable level of extras to Mr Vengeance. An 11-minute making of focuses on the lead and villain playing against type, and then it delves into some of the cameos. There are four short featurettes, generally about five minutes in length. There's one each about Lady Vengeance, her target, the prisoners, and the families of the villain's victims. Galleries are provided of both stills and poster art, and the film's teaser, full, and TV trailers are included, as are trailers for other Madman titles. A commentary with Park and star Lee Young-ae is the main extra. It's in Korean with English subs, but I'm not sure about these commentaries with subtitles. I find them distracting and a bit distancing, but then I whined that there wasn't a subtitle option for the commentary on the R1 of Happiness of the Katakuris, so clearly you can't please me. Anyway, Lady Vengeance's commentary has the standard information you'd expect to get in a commentary, but is handy as it provides some additional cultural insight.

Not listed as an extra, but something I consider one, is that the cover is reversible. The reverse side has alternate art, but also no massive OFLC rating.
The Verdict
While I appreciate the quality and skill of Lady Vengeance, I was really unable to get into this one. I appreciate and skill that went into making it, but I guess I'd just had enough of the trilogy by this point. If you loved the previous two entries, you'll probably love this one too. Regardless, it's great that Eastern Eye and Madman are giving these films nice releases, as compared to the Rialto bare bones and 4:3 disc of Oldboy. I'm having a hard time scoring Lady Vengeance, as it IS of value, but I also was bored for a lot of it. I suppose the technical quality of the film, the superb transfer, and the extras should garner it a four, but for my own viewing tastes, am going to have to go with a three.
Movie Score
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