Time Out says
In ‘Sympathy…’, selfless deaf-mute Ryu became a kidnapper with blood on his hands; in ‘Oldboy’, victim of outrageous abuse Oh Dae-su turned out to have some atoning of his own to do. ‘Lady Vengeance’ spins this approach itself around: we first meet Lee Keum-ja (Lee Young-ae) as a convicted child-killer approaching parole and only gradually realise the righteous foundations of the vendetta she coldly begins to pursue, aided by various fellow inmates whose favour she has assiduously curried.
Keum-ja is an uncommunicative lead character and, Lee’s strong performance notwithstanding, engagement is mostly maintained through style and story. Both of these feel newly expansive for Park: the screen heaves with richly ornate pickings and black-white-and-red motifs, from the delicate titles and flourishes of religiose iconography to macabre daydream visions and digital sleight-of-hand. The tight narrative traps of ‘Sympathy…’ and ‘Oldboy’, meanwhile, give way to copious flashback and an odd climax: while underlining Park’s interest in the price to be paid when parental duty fails, it makes Keum-ja a bystander in the cathartic blood-letting to which the whole film has been directed. This sequence, strangely funny and sadistic, seems to suggest that if there’s one thing better than taking revenge, it’s watching it dished out – an objectionable premise which can only give queasy pause as you sit watching it.
Cast and crew