First, Park Chan-wook brought viewers the grim, yet occasionally humorous Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. That movie centered on two parallel revenge stories for men who seemed to be entirely justified in their goals. Then came Oldboy, a gory and graphic film with an outstanding performance from its lead actor, Min-sik Choi. That film showed its central character abducted and held prisoner for years upon years. When he is released, he discovers that his family has been murdered, and he seeks his own justice. Both films have their fair share of graphic violence and evoke both ancient Greek tragedies and the plays of Shakespeare.
Now, at last, the Vengeance Trilogy is complete. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance has broken Korean box office records as audiences have turned out en masse to view this finale to the three similarly-themed, but completely separate stories. And this time around, the movie is told from a female perspective.
The movie has at its center a 19-year-old woman named Lee Geum-Ja who is sent to prison for murder and abduction of a child. She has committed this crime on behalf of an accomplice named Mr. Baek, but once she is jailed, she realizes that she has been betrayed. While serving her time, she slowly and methodically plans her own revenge. She wins over all of her fellow inmates through acts of kindness, and becomes so renowned for such behavior that they begin to call her "Kind Ms. Geum-Ja". When she is at last released from prison after 13 years, she sets out to have her revenge on Baek, with her former prison mates providing support.
One noteworthy item with regards to Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is that it returns many of the performers from both Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy. From Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, actors such as Kang-ho Song (one of the leads), Du-na Bae (the revolutionary girlfriend), Seung-wan Ryoo and Kwang-rok (who also appeared in Oldboy) put in some face time. As for Oldboy, that movie's star, Min-sik Choi, is in the film, along with Hye-jeong Kang, Byeong-ok Kim, Dal-su, Ji-tae Yu and Seung-Shin Lee, have put in appearances.
Now that both Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy have had a chance to accumulate an audience in North America, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance should be a buzz film with a high level of anticipation. Look for Tartan to be very pleased with the results of its release in art houses in North America. (Kim Hollis/BOP)