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Lady Vengeance (2005)

by British Film Critic

There has yet to be a single time where I’ve gone into a South Korean film blind, and not been completely and utterly blown away coming out of it, not so much by the quality (although that always plays a big part) but more so by just how complex and subversive and entirely unpredictable what I’ve just seen was, and even with films like Burning and Parasite and Mother, Lady Vengeance may in fact be the purest embodiment of all of those things that I’ve come into contact with to date.

With that aside, this film is able to maintain an almost infinite level of detail and narrative depth, expanding on its world, its characters and its history so concretely by moving a mile a minute, but always at just the right pace to allow you to take it all in. It can’t help but keep going deeper and deeper, often uncomfortably so, but ultimately making it so that once it’s over, it’s given you a relentlessly unabridged experience, for better or for worse. Park Chan-Wook’s pitch black sense of humour really does lend a lot to the film, always slightly able to lift the weight of the narrative but never refraining from making it really hit you.

As the title suggests, this is a film about revenge, and the ways in which it chooses to navigate that subject never relent in their creativity and intrigue – by not drawing a fine line at what it’s willing to explore and what it is not, it’s able to go in all sorts of direction and really captivate you along the way. This is my second Park Chan-Wook film, after The Handmaiden, but here I feel Chan-Wook’s eccentric, comical and even cartoonish direction (however ironic that may be) really thrives and gets to define the direction entirely at times.

I also have to tip my hat to the great Chung-hoon Chung who really never fails to impress me, but his work here is particularly fantastic, I must say. Again, I have to clarify that this film is not even remotely for the faint hearted, but if you’re a revenge film buff and your tolerance for these types of films is set to high, you should have yourself as great a time as I did.