Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Tagline: A support group with knives?!
Let me make this absolutely clear, this movie is not Old Boy. If you go into it expecting a similar movie you will be disappointed. Chan Park Wook has gone in a different direction with this film so I would advise you to see another movie if you want to see a lot of action.
The story begins with Lee Geum-Ja (Lee Yeong-ae) being released from prison after serving time for the kidnapping and murder of a young boy. As with a lot of prison movies, the main protagonist was set up to confess for the murder so she has spent her time in prison coming up with a plan to get back Mr Baek (Choi Min Sik) and enlists the her of her fellow inmates by taking on the persona of a saint while in prison.
While on the subject, the scenes in the prison are among my favourite in the film and I would recommend this film if you were a fan of the classic Australian TV drama Prisoner. The 'Witch' is particularly nasty and it is great to see the flashbacks to Lee Geum-Ja's fellow inmates and what she did for them when she meets them on the outside.
Unexpectedly, there is a section of the movie set in Australia where Lee Geum-Ja is reunited with her daughter Jenny (Kwon Yea-young). I thought her adoptive parents (Tony Barry and Anne Cordiner) were great also, but there wasn't enough of them in the film. The way Jenny gets her mother to take her back to Seoul was also funny, but I won't spoil the surprise for you.
Lee Geum-Ja is very cold and calculating in her plans and no one is allowed to stand in her way. It is hard to feel any sympathy for her as she is the one who shacked up with Mr Baek in the first place. The scene with Mr Baek taking out his lust on one of his partners over the table seemed a bit gratuitous as you already know what kind of person he is.
As with Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, the scenes dealing with violence against children it gets exceptionally difficult to watch. In particular there is a scene involving the children pleading for their lives on a ransom videos with the family watching.
The scenes where revenge is finally carried out were strange as the screening audience laughed at some parts of it. It was more black humour and the absurdity of the situation that prompted this though. If you can imagine a victim's support group, but everyone has knives and axes to carry out their frustrations.
Overall I thought this film was a lot different to Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Oldboy, but there were a lot of themes that were repeated and I liked spotting all the actors from the previous two films turning up in cameos. The soundtrack was not as overbearing (there is some Vivalidi, but it is not as explicit.)
There seems to have been something cut out of this film as the storyline about the concerned priest who is spying on Lee Geum-Ja never really goes anywhere. I have also heard of the version of this movie that fades to black and white and would be interested in seeing it to see how it changes the way the story progresses.
I would like to comment on the art direction and other visual aspects of the film, but it is best that you watch it to see these things. I would say that this is one of only two movies (Oldboy is the other), that can alter my perception for some time afterwards. The easiest way to describe it is that real life becomes like a series of scenes as if the movie is continuing, which is something that I had not experienced before. Yes, even doing this review is like I am still in a movie so I'll stop now so I can have a rest.