Let's start with the harsher of the two, shall we?
"Lady Vengeance," or "Chinjeolhan geumjassi" (which I can't pronounce) is the dark tale of one Geum-Ja Lee, who, after serving 13 years in prison for the crime of murdering a young boy, which she didn't actually commit, tries to make better her life. But the real murderer, teacher Mr. Baek, is out and about, and Geum-Ja wants vengeance.
I like revenge/don't eff with my family/I will avenge you movies. Observe some of my favorite films and stories; the aforementioned "Oldboy," anything Batman related, "Taken," "Kill Bill," and "Leon: The Professional." That's not the final list, but I LOVE those kinds of movies.
So, this movie had me from the beginning. The thing is, it doesn't let me off the hook with a purely satisfying "I'm gonna get the bad guy premise." Instead, you, Geum-Ja, and everyone involved actually has to go through a lot to get to that moment. And it's a dark journey.
I mean... A puppy gets shot... There's blood.... Yikes.
But for those of you who don't mind a little blood, there's a lot to chew on in this film, both in visceral pleasure and upstairs in the matters of grey matter. My theme for this and the last review apparently is challenging movies, and this movie offers those notions in droves. I must admit, however, for all the darkness in this film, it's not as harsh, in my opinion, as "Antichrist."
One of the most fascinating elements of the film is Geum-Ja's path. Actually, that's the focus of the film, but whatever. It's a poignant and gut-wrenching journey that you want to occasionally look away from, but you can't. You just can't. The violence is important in this film, not just violence for violence's sake. It services the story.
I could talk about the direction and the cinematography, but what would be the point? Chan-wook Park is at the helm here, as it is his Vengeance trilogy, and he is a masterful filmmaker. At this point, I'm willing to say one of the best in the world. Not really standing out on a limb here, but I have to call it as I, and many others, see it.
This is one of those very strong films with very strong elements, all of which coalesce into a great story. Easy to watch? No. But good? Absolutely. Maybe not "Oldboy" good. But it's a powerful film. Well worth the watch.