A woman looks for both revenge and redemption after spending 13 years in prison in this offbeat thriller from South Korea. Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae) was in her early twenties when she was found guilty of kidnapping and killing a young boy, and though she confessed to the crime under duress, while behind bars she dreamed of one day being able to clear her name -- and even the score with the people who railroaded her, including the police officer who brought her in (Nam Il-woo) and Mr. Baek (Choi Min-Sik), a teacher who wronged her in a number of ways. Lee Geun-ja teams up with a number of friends she made during her time in lock-up, including Woo So-yeong (Kim Bu-seon), a thief with a gunsmith for a husband; Oh Su-heui (Ra Mi-ran), who was saved from assault at the hands fellow inmates by Lee; and Preacher Jeon (Kim Byeong-ok), an eccentric man of the cloth who was struck by her gentle nature in jail. As Preacher Jeon helps Lee seek salvation for all she had to do while in prison, her other friends stand by her side as she gets even with her rivals and searches for the daughter she was forced to leave behind when she was convicted. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (aka Chinjeolhan Geum-ja-ssi) was the third film in a series, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Old Boy. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Lady Vengeance (2005; $18.60), a.k.a. "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance," is the concluding, and, we think, best chapter in Chan Wook Park's Vengeance trilogy (Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance were the others). "[Park's] most sullen and patient film," wrote Michael Atkinson in The Village Voice, "and yet it's breathless pop filmmaking, narratively mercurial, viscerally traumatic, and thematically infernal."
A very entertaining film that covers alot of ground and alot of intermingling characters in a visually impressive way but feels rushed or glossed over. The plot jumps back and forth in time and there is a lack of clarity to the action leaving important scenes behind in the feverishly quick pacing of the film... Contains some very memorable scenes but is overall lacking in solid structure. Lee Yeong-ae is the best part of the film in a very strong and forceful performance that reigns in the rest of the players helping to concentrating the many story threads on her struggle to exact revenge on the man who sent her to prison... Oldboy is a better film. But this is a very worthy companion piece.
Chan-Wook Park's SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE (or simply "Lady Vengeance," as it now appears to be called) is the capper to his phenomenal "Vengeance" trilogy, and it's a fine close to what I believe may become one of the time-tested wonders of cinema. Of the three films in the trilogy (including "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and "Old Boy") this one offers the least blood and guts, although its subject turns out to be the most depressing. Women figure much more prominently here than in any other Park film I've seen (including "Joint Security Area") and for the first half they remain a source of delicious--if somewhat grizzly--fun.
But as the film progresses it turns darker and then opens out into Park's signature: widening the viewer's vision via a combination of artful style, content and viewpoint. The gallery of parent/parental figures that populate the film toward its conclusion includes such an amazing range of faces that this alone is worth the entire film. Watching the work of this director, it's best to have little foreknowledge so you can sit quietly and take in everything, moment by moment. And there is so very much here to digest. Park allows you to revel in the art, feel the exceedingly strong emotions and then think about all you've seen. The movie experience doesn't get much richer.