Lady Vengeance is not a gender-swapped version of the Vengaboys, but the third installment in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy.
Lee Young-ae is superb as Lee Geum-ja, another brilliantly ambiguous character from Chan-wook’s twisted mind. After serving 13 years in prison, Geum-jaa is released and goes looking for some lady vengeance.
The plot is less twisty than Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, but no less surprising. The female protagonist also adds a feminist dimension that Chan-wook would explore more fully in last year’s exquisite The Handmaiden.
It’s also funnier than its predecessors, displaying more of Chan-wook’s blacker-than-black sense of humour. He peppers the picture with quirky details and strange flashbacks that almost make it feel like an ultra-violent version of Amélie.
The comedy and the colour seep out of the film in its third act, leaving a bloody black-and-white climax and the Wes Craven-esque idea that anyone in modern society is capable of extreme violence.
This violence is punctuated by Vivaldi’s striking strings and underpinned by dark political commentary. These films are the perfect anti-tourism adverts for South Korea.
While it’s true that Oldboy casts a looming shadow not only over the trilogy but world cinema in general, Lady Vengeance still succeeds on her own terms. The result is deliriously dark, stunningly subversive and never gratuitous. It’s everything that Kill Bill is not.