Lady Vengeance

LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY I'M OUT OF AMMO Lee, left, endures the pain.
LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY I’M OUT OF AMMO Lee, left, endures the pain.

Time Out says

Say this much for Park Chan-wook’s wildly overrated revenge flick Oldboy, coronated by a Tarantino-chaired jury at Cannes: It definitely lets you know where you stand. You either go ape for its tongue-slicing, head-hammering action, or you call it what it is—empty style. As for the serious critics who did both, the news that Park had a trilogy in mind provided all the thematic heft they needed.

Lady Vengeance, the conclusion of that trilogy (which started strong with 2002’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), is a psychotic affair, split into two tonally distinct sections. At first, perhaps repaying a favor to the director of Kill Bill, Park modulates the formula by breaking the news that chicks have murderous rages too. The angelic Geum-ja (Lee) is released from a decade-plus span in the clink for a kid-killing she didn’t commit. A Manson-like celebrity, she reconnects with other released cellmates as the narrative flips into lurid prison flashbacks involving an evil bull dyke. Ah, art cinema.

But the film takes a detour into a strangely compelling examination of capital punishment, as Geum-ja’s ultimate (and elaborate) plan comes into focus. The real killer, a remorseless kindergarten teacher (Oldboy’s Choi), is apprehended, and several parents are assembled for a procedure that’s less gruesome (onscreen, at least) than darkly comic and thoughtfully cathartic. Clearly this is the way forward; let’s hope Park has the sense to continue to address sympathy as well as vengeance. (Opens Fri; Angelika.)—Joshua Rothkopf



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