Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi, 2005)

Lady Vengeance

Well, this wasn’t quite what I was expecting!

The third in a “Revenge Trilogy” (I hope not yet having watched the first two parts doesn’t mean I’ve missed deep and hidden meanings), I expected this to be dark and gritty and it was, intermittently. But it was also glossy, stylish and, very frequently, self-consciously ‘wacky’.

The plot: Geum-ja (Yeong-ae Lee) is released from prison, where she has served thirteen years for the kidnap and murder of a child. We are given to suspect that she has been set up and, gradually, her reasons for accepting the blame for the crime and her plans for revenge are revealed. Given almost superhuman powers of patience and organisation, Geum-ja is shown not to have been wasting her time inside, having worked her way into (benevolent) control of the inmates and cultivating contacts (each of whom is introduced with a subtitle) who will be useful to her later. She is also reunited with her daughter, a baby given up for adoption when Geum-ja was arrested and whose existance also has significance.

I’m really not sure about this film. Yes, it is made with great panache – some of the scenes are amazingly beautiful – and it was well acted (Yeong-ae Lee is terrific) and serious in intent; I don’t think it sets out to trivialise torture and mob-justice. And yet, with its odd and jarring changes in tone, it managed to distance me from what should have been a visceral experience. I may yet watch the other films in this trilogy but they’re not very high on my ‘watch’ list.

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