Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

2005

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Critics Consensus

Stylistically flashy and gruesomely violent, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance fits in nicely with the other two films of Park's revenge trilogy.

76%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 86

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 60,986
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Movie Info

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, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

All Critics (86) | Top Critics (27)

  • ... as brutal as it is beautiful.

    Aug 6, 2006 | Rating: B+
  • Squanders plot impetus, and even with constant crosscutting it's lethargically paced, slogging through soap-operatic back stories and maddening irrelevancies.

    Jun 30, 2006 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The films strain to present some kind of moral compass, a philosophy of revenge's human toll. But in the end, their sadistic glee in creative bloodshed trumps all.

    Jun 29, 2006 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…
  • Pound-of-flesh cinema, you might say.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Ben Walters

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Apart from Park's impressive but ultimately hollow style (his images are impeccably composed and visually inventive), Lady Vengeance is still an exercise in wretched excess (though less extreme than its predecessors).

    Jun 23, 2006 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Powered by a glowering performance by actress Lee Young Ae, it is a walloping tale.

    Jun 23, 2006 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

  • Jun 24, 2014
    And thus, we conclude the "Vengeance Trilogy"... probably because Park Chan-wook has run out of ideas, and has had to resort to jumping the shark and making an installment about a woman exacting vengeance. Seriously though, this isn't your usual vengeance, this is [u]lady[/u] vengeance, which ought to be hardcore, so long as a car is nearby to serve as the revenge weapon. I make my offensive stereotype joke, but this, oddly enough, is something of a black comedy, so I think even Park has to poke fun at the idea of a woman doing something as well as a man, which is, of course, a totally shocking and uncommon outlook in Asia. This might just feel like a black comedy because, at this point, the amount of violence that Park is showcasing is pretty much comical, and it doesn't help that "Oldboy" got kind of cheesily weird at times. If this is a comedy, then it's more like a black-and-white comedy, at least after a while, and depending on which version you watch, because there's some kind of a "Fade-to-White Version" that gradually fades to black-and-white... and exists separately, for whatever reason. Park is just forcibly coming up with new ways to release this film, because, like I said, he is kind of running out of ideas at this point, but still would like some money, which is good, I guess, because I'm apparently beginning to lose ideas about what to discuss in these review article openers. Yeah, this final installment in the "Vengeance Trilogy" is a decent way to go out, but make no mistake, it is more-or-less more of the same, at least with pacing. If this film is livelier than "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and "Oldboy", then it barely is, still falling into its share of dry spells through directorial flare, made all the more bland by scripted dragging which, through excess filler and material, leave the film to follow an almost aimless path. Of course, dragging is hardly the most questionable structural attribute of this plot, for the nonlinear structure and juggling of story layers is jumbled to the point of almost being abstractionist, and decidedly to the point of near-tiresome convolution. It's difficult to describe just how uneven this film gets to be with its structure, but it is a little easier to describe the tonal inconsistencies, which aren't as severe as I was fearing upon finding that Park Chan-wook had chosen to incorporate dark comedic elements into his usual gritty formula for the "Vengeance Trilogy", yet are still off-putting when dramatic elements are jarringly undercut by a humor that is in turn undercut by the dramatic elements, or at least certain overtly disturbing imagery and other gruesome happenings. As usual, Park gets carried away with his disturbing tastes, in addition to his tastes in melodramatics, because if nothing else is consistent between the tonal extremes of this film, it's a certain cheese, even within events of questionable probability. When the cheese gets to the fluff, that's when things really go awry, because if the film is the pinnacle of nothing else as an installment in Park's "Vengeance Trilogy", then it is of overstylization, for the flashy visuals and frantic experimentation with storytelling rarely abates, yet near-consistently shakes substance and suppresses resonance. It's ultimately style over substance that truly holds this drama back, though not single-handedly, because there's plenty of structural sloppiness to convoluted the final product as overambitious and misguided, almost to the point of being forgettable. The film is certainly underwhelming, but it's still a ways away from being a misfire, holding your attention with adequate inspiration, especially in, of all things, musical artistry. Choi Seung-hyun's score for this film is by no means as unique as, say, the score for "Oldboy", but it's still excellent, with haunting modern, Eastern world and, of course, baroque classical artistry - complimented by a prominent usage of Antonio Vivaldi's "Ah ch'infelice sempre" - whose range from bite to subtlety is both beautiful and rather fitting - both ironically and directly - for this colorful, if still rather weighty thriller, like the visual style. Chung Chung-hoon's cinematography is even less unique, yet nonetheless lively, with subtly striking and fitting tastes in coloration and light that are augmented in the perhaps definitive "Fade to White" version, whose gradual descent into a black-and-white palette reflects the drama's gradual descent into dark tone. Really, the film never lets up on style, with Park Chan-wook, as director, delivering on delightful plays on Kim Jae-beom's and Sang-beom's snappy editing, and memorable visuals, in addition to the beautiful musical and cinematography style, so realized that, when controlled, they add to substance, rather than betray it, and yet, when substance receives full attention, it truly thrives, once the thoughtful atmosphere is controlled enough to sell, rather than jar you through shifts and extremes in tone. Through overblown histrionics and some peculiar storytelling styles, Park makes the film more convoluted than it needs to be, but when those subtly complex layers are taken with sophistication and grace, you catch some near-solid glimpses into what could have been. There is indeed a good deal of potential to explore with this film's story concept, and while that's hard to see through an execution so overblown and misguided, there is still plenty of layered intrigue to this dramatic thriller, genuinely done justice by highlights in a script by Park and Jeong Seo-kyeong which keeps things from getting too slow through colorful, if overwrought set pieces, and some more tasteful dramatic and characterization beats which define the heart of this character study. Of course, what really drive the human elements which in turn drive the highlights of this messy thriller is the acting, at least by lovely leading lady Cho Young-wuk, whose grippingly nuanced and often emotionally striking portrayal of a disturbed and guilty woman seeking closure, both through revenge and through coming to terms with her own mistakes, compels about as much as anything in this film. As with its predecessors, this film showcases highlights that I really do wish were a lot more recurrent, yet, at the same time, define what there is to consistently enjoy out of this film, which keeps you going just fine, no matter how much it fumbles a long the way. In closing, a couple slow spells and many convolutedly uneven spells in story structuring, as well as tonal inconsistencies, histrionics and, of course, near-exhausting overstylization hold the final product back a ways, but excellent scoring and cinematography, highlights in stylish and often thoughtful direction, - in addition to scripting - and solid acting, at least by Cho Young-wuk, are ultimately enough to make "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" a decently engaging, if flimsy conclusion to Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance Trilogy". 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 05, 2013
    [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Mar 04, 2013
    Building up where OldBoy left off, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a fine conclusion to Chan Wook Park Vengeance trilogy. This is a well crafted third part that is just as disturbing as the first two pictures in the trilogy, yet creates something different in the process as well. Oldboy was the turning point in Park's trilogy and elevated the standards of the revenge film with his second outing in the trilogy. However for this third part, he delivers something truly remarkable and intense and like Oldboy before it, redefined the genre. The first film, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance was quite good and set the tone for the following films afterwards. Park in turn became more confident with the formula and made films that brought violence into a respectable art form. Meaning the violence was used to elevate the plot and not used just for the sake of shock value. This third entry is a well acted film with a great story and fine directing that became Park's signature with his previous Vengeance outings. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a different film, and works very well and will definitely entertain cinema buffs that enjoy a powerful and thoroughly engaging revenge film without the same old Hollywood clichés. The film tends to deliver some truly shocking and disturbing bits as it plunges you in the action and gives you an ugly taste of revenge from the main character. The brilliant tone of the movie is what sets this apart from other films in the genre, and there is an added human emotion to the feel of the picture that gives it such a unique appeal and unforgettable quality. This is a near flawless film that will definitely entertain you from start to finish. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a fine conclusion to Park's Vengeance trilogy and it will definitely appeal to viewers looking for a great revenge flick.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • May 26, 2012
    One of the most original films I've seen, I don't usually like Korean films but this one is different.It's a revenge story with many twists, I really liked it, the direction was great. If you like gore then this one would be good for you!!
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer

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