LIMERICK REVIEW: There was a demure lady in jail;
Put there by an evil kidnapping male.
Such a person is no more than a worm;
Deserving fates that would make you squirm–
While justice served by a court seems kind of pale.
HAIKU REVIEW: Torturing children
isn’t the best use of time.
Karma is a bitch.
PEOPLE: Directed by Park Chan-wook, this is the 3rd movie in his Vengeance Trilogy, after Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, and the much-acclaimed film Oldboy, which is now being remade as a mainstream Hollywood film. (Let’s hope that doesn’t totally suck! But it’s hard to believe they could make anything as good as the original Oldboy!)
Starring the demure and kind-hearted looking Lee Young-Ae, and Choi Min-sik, the leading man from Oldboy. In this movie, he plays a different character; Park Chan-wook‘s Vengeance Trilogy is a loose trilogy of three completely separate stories, not a “tight” trilogy like Star Wars or Lord Of The Rings.
QUIRKS: Korean, which means subtitled. Non-linear story, which means “trippy pacing, man”. Asian cinema seems to have not yet forgotten that sometimes the best way to tell a story is NOT in direct, linear fashion. The storytelling here is quite beautiful. It starts out with the main character, Lee Geum-ja, being imprisoned for 13 yrs for kidnapping and murdering a little boy. But did she really do it?
This movie is not *quite* as much of a “mystery” in the way Oldboy is. You’re left guessing characters’ motivations, but the revelations ultimately come much sooner in this 2-hour film.
It’s long too: 2 hours. I love movies where you think it’s over, and it’s not. Then you think it’s over again, and it’s STILL not. That’s always a great feeling for me.
Also: Never in my life have I ever wanted somebody to eat snow so much.
VISUALS: Visually this is great filmmaking, though it is not *trippy*. But scenes are set up well. And while there is a fair amount of violence in this film, there is not much *gore*. You are aware that violence is happening, but you don’t see it up close a la Saw or Hostel. I actually consider this a bit of a fault, but it will make it more accessible to squeamish viewers. It’s more violent than Oldboy (in the final scenes), but has less gore than Oldboy. You don’t see anyone [oldboy spoiler alert] [highlight for spoilers]→ cut out their own tongue, or eat a live squid for example. There is also a Fade To Black And White Version (which I would really like to get!), in which the film gradually fades to all black and white… Sort of a reverse of the movie Pleasantville. I wonder if this version would be even easier for quesy viewers to swallow?
SOUNDTRACK: An edited version of Vivaldi’s “Ah ch’infelice sempre” from “Cessate, omai cessate”… which is about a woman seeking revenge on a man who betrayed her. A layer of depth I didn’t realize until I read the Wikipedia link for this film.
MORALS: Sometimes vigilante justice works better than proper, civilized justice. The cognitive dissonance generated by the morals of this movie are astounding: On one hand, you can’t possibly condone the actions taken by the victims in this movie. And on the other hand, anyone wanting real justice would do exactly what these people did. I have absolutely zero doubt in my mind that if someone brutally tortured Carolyn to death, on video — that I would have abso-fuckin’-lutely zero qualms about doing the exact same thing to them.And I challenge any parent to watch their children be killed on video and do anything less. Sure, the legal system will take care of them eventually. But it just wont be the same.
This movie is about true justice. Old Testament style. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. If someone shoots someone, put them in the electric chair. But if someone gradually tortures someone to death for no reason… The electric chair really isn’t good enough for them. I believe in honor killings (not the Sharia ones! duh!), but only by loved ones, and only in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Show me a video of someone killing someone I love, and I swear I’ll fucking gut you myself in the most painful way possible. I’ll bathe in your fucking blood, and I’ll revel in your suffering and utter destruction. I’ll fucking end you.
BAD STUFF: There’s really nothing bad about this movie! People who like their stories presented to them on a silver platter might be put off by the non-linear telling of the story… But it’s not like nobody’s ever watched a movie with a lot of flashbacks before. This certainly isn’t as confusing as Memento, for instance.
Hell, there’s even a brief “angel” scene — that is something I would normally hate, as I despite all spirituality. But here? It’s poetic, beautiful, and tear-inducing. And a great cinematographic moment too.
CONCLUSION: OH. MY. GOD. Favorite movie out of the last 350+ movies (I went back and checked, and gave up after counting 350 back) that I’ve watched. This was awesome. While not as “f’ed up” as Oldboy, I found this to be a better movie than Oldboy, even after watching Oldboy twice and liking Oldboy more the 2nd time. It seems a lot of people preferred Oldboy to this, however. Carolyn & I certainly don’t agree with that assessment.
The other was the movie Crank, which is not at all a serious movie, but simply the *perfect* popcorn movie. This is soooo NOT a popcorn movie. This is serious stuff. This is Shawshank Redemption serious. Whereas Shawshank was about escape, this is about justice. It’s just as good, but in a different, more visceral way.
While I give 6/10s out very lightly, I do NOT give 10/10s out lightly. Maybe 1 in 50 movies gets a 10, maybe even less than that. I’m just saying it’s uncommon for me to rate a movie this high.
RECOMMENDATION: OH MY GOD!! See this! Especially if you have a sense of justice and revenge. If you want bad people to have bad things happen to them, then this is your movie and there is no other. Poetic, beautiful, f’ed up, slightly confusing… and just. Never has vigilante justice felt so good.
SIMILAR MOVIES: Obviously the other 2 movies in The Vengeance Trilogy are similar. But, this being Korean cinema, there’s not much to compare it to, American-wise. I’d say the closest comparison would be The Count Of Monte Cristo. Other good revenge movies include The King’s Whore (out of print and impossible to find, even for me) and The Cook,The Thief,His Wife,& Her Lover.
Compared to Oldboy, I found the justice in this movie to be much more fair and… just. In Oldboy, we have a guy [highlight for MAJOR MAJOR Oldboy spoilers]→ remove his own tongue and be tricked into fucking and falling in love with his daughter, all for the crime of telling other people about someone else’s incest. Isn’t that a bit harsh? In this movie, [highlight for MAJOR MAJOR Lady Vengeance spoilers]→ we have the parents of tortured children torturing and killing the person who killed their children… which is totally deserved. I’d almost consider someone a bad parents for NOT doing what was done in this movie. Jail is not good enough for these fuckers, nor is the electric chair. I’m in general pretty soft on crime — even believing that many murderers should eventually go free, once reformed. But when torture is involved, and it’s done for no damn good reason, it makes it that much worse. Torture the tortuerers. To death.
MOVIE QUOTE: Lee Geum-ja, in a touching scene talking to her daughter, via a translator held hostage: “Listen carefully. Everyone make mistakes. But if you committed a sin, you have to make an atonement for that sin. Atonement. Do you know what that means? Big atonement for big sins. Small atonement for small sins.”
Yes. Big atonement indeed.
COINCIDENCES: (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, Big Nothing) 2 movies in the same night with [highlight for spoilers, including MAJOR MAJOR Lady Vengeance spoilers]→ people extorting money from other people for various reasons, recording snuff/murder films, cleaning up murder scenes of murdered murderers who murdered on film, upside-down shots from a kid’s viewpoint, plots that involve the main characters and their daughter, and a scene with a fallen mangled body. Really, one of the most detailed movie coincidences of the entire year.
Mood: pesto = yum
Music: Alex Skolnick Trio – War Pigs