Sympathy For The Devil

Acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook completes his trilogy of operatic revenge films on a high note with the dreamlike Lady Vengeance. If your dreams feature dismemberment and coffee cake, that is. Following the themes of redemption and justice established in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and OldBoy, this time the story revolves around a young woman named Geum-ja (played by Lee Young-ae), recently released from prison having served 13 years for a notorious crime, the kidnap and murder of a young boy. The timid, religious girl that went in is a very different woman now, having spent the 13 cramped years festering in spite and plotting a complex plan. Once on the outside, she shuns her family, the rabid media attention and the creepy Christian group that helped her get parole. Using her prison contacts and keen sense of cunning, she constructs her suitably elaborate and vicious revenge, focused on one man, the evil schoolteacher Mr. Baek (Choi Min-shik from OldBoy). Reunited with her own teenage daughter, fostered in Australia, and armed with a mysterious, custom-made revolver, Geum-ja sets about her task with relish..

Stylish and eclectic, Park has an idiosyncratic, wholly successful visual sense and uses his camera flamboyantly, giving Lady Vengeance a brilliantly crunchy texture. We get swooping, impossible camera movements, vibrant special effects and the occasional moment of wild surrealism, like a man’s head on a dog’s body. It is all beautiful, even the violence, which has been toned down from the baroque excesses of OldBoy, but not by much. Displaying every trick in his virtuoso hand, Park uses dense flashbacks, and whimsical sub-plots to give his characters sometimes conflicting depth and background in his bizarre world. The ensemble cast, many making return appearances in the series, are all on top form. Funny, creepy and enjoyably dark-hearted, Lady Vengeance isn't quite the mind-blowing experience that OldBoy provided, but is a fitting end to a masterpiece trilogy.

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