Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi) (2005)

Lee Geum-Ja, have mercy on us...
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Lady Vengeance - Lee Geum-Ja, have mercy on us...

Chan-wook Park's third and final (obviously) part of the Vengeance Trilogy is Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi), sometimes known as just Lady Vengeance and always known as Chinjeolhan geumjassi. Once again we are presented with a cold, calculated and complex revenge scheme intricately planned over a length of time that would make a sloth with a lifetimes supply of hash-brownies loose its patience. Unlike the two previous movies (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy) the plot of Lady Vengeance is fairly linear and easy to follow, not saying that the vengeance plot is simple retribution and not saying that it isn't without some eye-widening plot revelations but the customary element of confusion is absent and the characters motivations are comparatively pragmatic. The lengths to which Geum-ja's impetus drives her are, as expected from Chan-wook Park's labors, extreme and brutal. Gemu-Ja (she who requires vengeance) is a cold yet methodical murderess but, as the title suggests, her acts of brutality inspire a complete understanding and sympathy despite her implacable behavior.

In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. 13 and a half years ago Lee Gemu-Ja was sent to prison for a crime she confessed to but also didn't commit. With her new born daughters life under threat from the real killer, Gemu-Ja was forced to confess to the murder of a young boy and spend a valuable chunk of life in a ladies prison when she could have been drinking cider and writing movie reviews. Using her prison time wisely she befriends a number of useful criminals using acts of kindness such as organ donation, putting a stop the prison bully's fetish for sweaty face-rape by slowly poisoning said bully with beach (I suppose that was an act of kindness towards all new inmates as they get to suck a rug free of 99.9% bacteria that smells like lemons) plus other acts of benevolence that earn her the nickname of the "Kind-Hearted Ms. Geum-Ja."

Upon her release Ms. Gemu-Ja prepares to relieve herself of the "Kind-Hearted" mantle and starts to patiently execute her act of vengeance. After apologizing to the victims of her confessed crime by gifting them with some of her own fingers she calls in some favors from her released prison buddies and secures herself a job, somewhere to live and a custom "up close and personal only" gun. She also changes her image and applies some fuchsia eye makeup which obviously amplifies her killing skills as makeup gives confidence.

Gemu-Ja tracks down her daughter to an adoptive family in Australia and spends some time with her offspring to explain why she has been such a bad mother and that her mothering is going to get a bit worse in the near future. She also tracks down the real child killer Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik from Oldboy) and after a bit of invasion into his personal affairs determines that he has killed many other children and decides that she should share her vengeance with all of the victims of his appalling transgressions.

Lady Vengeance is a compelling story and despite a fairly drawn out build up, the final act of vengeance is worth the wait and the time taken to invest in the life of Gemu-Ja makes the act of reckoning all the more satisfying. It would have been nice to gain a bit of an insight into the lives of the accomplices in the closing crime but to do this the movie would have to be about six hours long to remain as Gemu-Ja-Centric as is required to sympathize with her. Once again the extreme element of this movie comes from the story and although the violence is vicious when it does happen, it is only occasional with the good stuff saved for the ending. Possibly the weakest in the trilogy, but when compared with the exceptional quality of it's siblings this is by no means an indication that anyone should meet their maker without having seen it. Lady Vengeance is an awesome movie experience which needs to be seen by any movie buff with an interest in the more challenging and exigent side of cinema.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies
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