In Park Chan-wook’s final installment of his vengeance trilogy, the artistic flair is turned up but the main narrative fails to capture the imagination. 2005’s Lady Vengeance is a more subtle approach to the idea of vengeance, but instead of offering a solid film such as the first two installments, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, this film reaches towards being topical on the validity of vengeance itself.
The main character in the film is Lee Geum-ja and her character is released from jail as we open the film. Lee was sentenced for 13 and a half years for the crime of murdering a young boy. What we find out in the film is that her daughter was kidnapped and held for ransom. Instead of asking for money, the killer wanted Lee to confess to killing a young boy or else he would kill Lee’s daughter. While she was in this woman’s prison, Lee meets several people who suffer from being exploited by one person or another. Lee becomes Lady Vengeance by helping each of these people and going so far as to kill another inmate. Once she is free of prison, she extracts her revenge on the killer only to fall short after realizing this person is a serial killer. From this point, Lee contacts the family members of his victims and together they kill this man.
From the start I was more confused with this film than the other two entries. I had a bit of a difficult time figuring out who I was supposed to be on the side of as I knew Lee was our main character but she wasn’t particularly sympathetic. What I enjoyed about the other two films is the mystery surrounding how they were going to get revenge and figuring out who the person was that had done them wrong. In this film, she knows who, she knows how, and she can get at him seemingly at any time. She’s simply waiting to kill him which makes the audience wait for a pay off that simply didn’t come. The main part that put me off from the film was when she’s in contact with all of the families that have been harmed. She makes these people watch videos of their child being killed before revealing that she has the man tied up and they are allowed to kill him. The families have this extended discussion on how to kill him and if he should be killed or if he should be turned into the police. While I can’t deny that the film is artfully made, I just couldn’t grab onto the characters as much with this film as I had hoped. Still it’s one of the better trilogies I’ve seen in film and certainly worth seeing all three.