Park Chan-Wook a.k.a Mr. Vengeance, is a man in whose pysche you would not want to get lost. He makes nasty, vicious, blood-drenched revenge thrillers that are an absolute joy to watch. He gets horror in a way that, say, the producers of Final Destination 3 do not. He knows that there is nothing more nauseatingly spine-chilling than seemingly normal, buttoned-up, vaguely attractive middle-class people taking to each other with axes. A lot of the time, due to deft editing, you don't even see the gruesome acts. You see the 'before' and 'after' and your brain does the rest of the work. Your imagination is going crazy with the most lurid, horrific visuals but at the same time your sympathy is with the perpetrator rather than the victim.
LADY VENGEANCE is the third in Park's revenge trilogy, following on from SYMPATHY FOR MR VENGEANCE and OLDBOY. Thematically all three movies tread the same ground: the impossibility of reconciling the lust for revenge with the desire for a peaceful life. However, that is not to say that if you see one Park Chan-Wook film you've seen them all. LADY has a more muted colour palette than OLDBOY, almost to the point of using grayscale highlighted by Lady Vengeance's red eye-shadow. The use of violence is also more muted - the acts are more often off-screen, and people who felt grossed out at OLDBOY should give LADY VENGEANCE a try. And while we do see some of the surreal caricatures that we got in OLDBOY - not least in the rogue's gallery of inmates in the prison - in general, the characters "look" far more normal. To my mind, that makes the horror far more affecting - the stylistic balance has definitely tilted from Tarantino to Lynch and all to the good.
Reasons to watch LADY VENGEANCE: 1. Looks bloody amazing - every scene is like watching a well designed and choreographed ballet. 2. Wickedly complicated plot that sticks a finger in the eye (and indeed a pair of scissors in the back of the neck) of those who would dumb down cinema. Broadly speaking, Lady Vengeance went down for a crime she didn't commit, A-Team style, and is now out of prison and out for revenge on the actual perp. 3. Features the darling of Korean ultra-violence, Choi Min-sik, known to canny viewers as the all-out badass in OLDBOY and as the boxer with a heart of gold in CRYING FIST. 4. Despite endemic sadism, the movie manages to create a genuine emotional connection between the audience and Lady Vengeance. 5. Despite hard-core nastiness, the movie creates scenes of fantastically dark and piercing humour. 6. Best use of transparent plastic raincoats since AMERICAN PSYCHO.
Reasons not to watch LADY VENGEANCE: 1. If you are vegetarian, tree-hugging hippie, who might get traumatised knowing that a small dog is being shot at point-blank range just off screen, you should avoid this film.
LADY VENGEANCE played the 2005 London Film Fest. It opened in France in November 2005, and in the UK yesterday. It goes on limited release in the US on the 5th May 2006.