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Lady Vengeance | DVD Review

“… Lady Vengeance is interesting but has a few too many ideas that keep it from being as focused as the trilogy’s crown jewel, Oldboy.”

Korean director Chan-Wook Park has enjoyed a very high profile since the second installment in his revenge trilogy, Oldboy, garnered international praise and shifted all eyes toward his work. Hot on the heels of that seminal film came a beast of a more feminine stripe, the trilogy’s stylized finale, Lady Vengeance.

The plot concerns Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae), a single mother who has been framed for violent crimes she did not commit. Upon her release from prison, she embarks on a mission to hunt down and exact revenge on the man responsible for both her incarceration, and prison-induced seperation from her daughter.

Much more than a standard revenge yarn, the film is actually about guilt and atonement. Geum-ja is consumed by psychological demons, spending most of her effort trying to overcome them, the revenge angle merely in service to this goal. The man who has ruined Geum-ja’s life has also hurt many others and it’s within the context of the film’s ‘social justice’ that Lady Vengeance transcends Geum-ja’s personal pain to that of a larger group that ultimately encompasses the audience. Lady Vengeance boasts visual flair, a distinctive score, and is somewhat more schizophrenic in style than it’s two predecessors. Park loves to set up a scene with intricate precision and most of Lady Vengeance feels very theatrical, very staged. While this results in occasional scenes of stunning compositional shots, it also tends to give a sense of micro-management and by extension, makes the director’s presence more obvious. There’s no shortage of iconography, double meaning and visual puns to inspire repeat viewings and Park is able to segue from moments of violence to comedy and back again effortlessly, often within the same shot.

There are three (!) audio commentaries. The first is with director Park and Lee Yeong-ae, the film’s star. The commentary is mostly fluff, more like two friends reminiscing rather than anything substantial and seems to have been included for the benefit of her legions of fans in Asia who are not accustomed to seeing her in this kind of film. The second commentary features acute observations from Richard Peña, Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. And finally, the third commentary is more of a technical roundtable discussion with director Park, cinematographer Jonghoon Chung, and art director Hwasung Cho.

There’s also a, “Making of…”featurette with some bizarre deadpan narrative courtesy of the assistant director on Lady Vengeance, Min-woo Suk. Suk’s voice-over serves as a guide through the more or less random ten minute montage of behind the scenes footage, more of a throwaway snapshot of the production than anything else. There’s also a repetitive 40 minute interview with Park in which every question the interviewer asks contains the word revenge. And of course, trailers…

In terms of extras, Richard Peña’s inclusion on the disc is a nice addition to all of the subtitles and translations, and lends an informed Western viewpoint. Film-wise, Lady Vengeance is interesting but has a few too many ideas that keep it from being as focused as the trilogy’s crown jewel, Oldboy. All in all however, this edition is a very solid package, and should please fans of the film.

Movie rating – 3

Disc Rating – 2.5

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