Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) Review

"Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" Korean Theatrical Poster

AKA: Kind Ms. Geum-Ja; Keum-Ja, Lady Vengeance; The Kind-hearted Miss Kum-ja
Director: Park Chan-wook (Park Chan-uk)
Writer: Park Chan-wook (Park Chan-uk), Jeong Seo-Gyeong
Cast: Lee Young-Ae, Choi Min-Sik, Kim Si-Hu
Running Time: 112 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

Watching a Park Chan-Wook film is like listening to a new Radiohead album; at first, you’re not exactly sure what to think, but your initial reaction to the production is positive. To simply put it, a Park Chan-Wook or Radiohead project may not instantly suck you in, but if you’re willing to stick with it, you’ll realize that every scene or note is of divine and artistic quality.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is Park Chan-Wook’s third and final chapter in his “Revenge Trilogy” (with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Old Boy being the first two). All three films are not connected story or character wise, but they do share the obvious revenge theme, as well as the same circle of known actors in Park’s other films.

In Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, (don’t worry, no spoilers here) Kum-ja (Lee Young-ae) is charged with the kidnapping and murder of a boy and is sent to prison for 13 years. Because of her stunning good looks, the media feeds off her situation and in the process, makes her a celebrity (ie Natural Born Killers). Her bright, polka-dotted fall dress becomes her image trademark. Even in prison, she makes a name for herself by being an inspiration or “saint” (complete with glowing face) to fellow cell mates because of her kind heart and inspirational speeches.

When Kum-ja is released, she becomes cold hearted and the good old revenge story follows with twists, turns, savage violence, and a truly bad ass gun that I wouldn’t mind owning…

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance takes Park Chan-Wook’s unorthodox style to a greater level than all of his films combined. It’s filled with uncanny visuals, lavish dream sequences, black & white shots, and even scratchy/aged film stock effects. It’s pure eye candy, even though some of it is strange. The music, consisting of crisp orchestrated pieces, enhance the movie in every right way.

Lee Young-ae’s performance is amazing. Think Brigitte Lin in Chungking Express, only a little more twisted. She’s not exactly youthful-looking (after all, she’s supposed to play a thirty-something), but her charisma and diverse acting ability makes her appealing. Choi Min-Sik… need I say anything about this guy? If you’ve seen his other word (Old Boy, Shiri), you can expect another fine performance from one of Korea’s best actors.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is definitely not Park Chan-Wook’s best film (Mr. Vengeance still wins in my opinion) but it certainly shows his continuing growth as a director whose work will probably be studied and imitated for years to come.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10

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