Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Reviews
The film plays out at a blistering pace. Lee Geum-ja has spent 13 years in prison - continuing Oldboy's theme of incarceration, with Choi Min-Sik even appearing in this film - for a crime she did not commit. Her plan to get revenge is to play an angelic figure in her prison life, using her famous good looks and kindness - which earnt her the title 'Kind-Hearted Geum-Ja' -, as well as her ingenuity to get out of prison early. Once out, she then aims to exact her revenge on Mr. Baek, played by Min-Sik, who prayed on her childish vulnerability to make her confess to a murder he committed. The film is sleek and suave, with style and finesse to spare. Importantly, it treats its characters with respect, showing montages displaying the allies Geum-ja made in prison, along with their unique character traits and personalities. It goes for a less serious, bleak tone, instead opting for playfulness, at least until the finale. At last, we get a film in this trilogy with levity! The humour may still be dark, but this is in a more Tarantino-esque manner.
My only real issue with this film is the ending. Mr. Baek kidnapped children for ransom and then killed them, and their parents are brought together by Lee Geum-ja, as she wants to be morally cleansed after failing to stop the crimes of Baek. They decide to all torture and eventually murder Baek, who they now ironically have hostage - this continual shifting of power recurs throughout the trilogy -, instead of turning him over to a justice system that they see as being too lenient on such an evil man. This should be an incredibly fast-paced, erratic and cathartic scene, one which allows the parents to let out their pent up emotions. This would have been more in keeping with the film's pacing and playfulness. However, instead we get a slow and tense sequence. This is effective in its own way, as it feels real and visceral. However, it isn't quite in keeping with the film's tone or a satisfying enough revenge, as Baek was such a cruel, heartless character. It isn't the ending this film needed or deserved, and left me feeling slightly disappointed and frustrated.
This film is entertaining, funny, tense, and sad all at once, and is wholly original. The use of girl power also makes a nice change in a trilogy where men had previously been the dominant figures. It doesn't evoke quite the same levels of raw emotion as Oldboy, but does not taint Chan-Wook's overall vision. It is a worthy end to a trilogy which whilst good, is not overall quite the cinematic landmark it's made out to be. It is however, still well worth a watch. Chan-Wook is a talent who will be around for a while, and there's still something worthwhile in his lesser efforts.
Chan-Wook Park should probably know by now that what keeps a movie interesting can go much further than just the setting or the querkiness of its first half, but as the movie progresses everything makes much more sense and it is easier to actually give a crap about a revenge story that takes a while to actually know why the desire exists in the first place.
First the majority of the movie I felt nothing at all for the main lead. She was portrayed as a killer, and yet always claimed her innocence. She was part of a conspiracy that lead to the death of a child, yet claimed it was basically OK because it wasn't her fault. Then when we are in the small room with her, the families of the victims and the videos of the deaths of the children are played. It all changes.
We feel for her pain, but also empathize because she wants the families to have their vengeance too. Even though she wants them to actualize the vengeance for her, I could easily connect with this character and the families.
They symbolism of the white cake was wonderfully done.
I am left happy overall with the Vengeance trilogy, especially as the redemption of the main lead brings the vengeance to a halt. There is no more vengeance to be had. The families are whole and can move on knowing the proper killer is now 'removed', and she can now spend time with her daughter.