Tag Archives: Choi Min-sik

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) Review

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Time:  115 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja
Choi Min-sik as Mr. Baek
Director: Park Chan-wook

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae) has spent the last 13 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. She’s fantasized about getting revenge on the various people who wronged her, including the police officer (Nam Il-u) who forced her to confess and a shady teacher (Choi Min-sik) with whom she has a checkered past. After her release, she teams up with a group of eccentric friends she made while behind bars and sets out to clear her name and find the daughter she was forced to leave behind.

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I heard of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance for a while, mainly that it’s the third part of the Vengeance trilogy from Park Chan-wook. I didn’t know what to expect from the movie, outside it being another movie about revenge I didn’t know anything about the story. I checked it out and it’s actually quite an incredible movie, one of my favourite movies from Park.

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As said earlier, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is another movie about revenge and like the other movies in Park’s Vengeance trilogy, shows the consequences and weight of revenge. The characters here are tired, bleak and just want it done so they can move on. The movie shows the many sides to a human’s moral compass, and what vengeance means to different people. The approach to the subject matter is more thoughtful and nuanced than some other films in the genre, and on the whole I’d have to say that this is one of the most mature movies about revenge I’ve seen. The script is expertly crafted and written. It is surprisingly quite complex, mostly to do with the unconventional structure for the first half. This structure is a little choppy despite the story being relatively straightforward looking back at it, it meant I was a little confused at first but on another viewing I probably would understand it more. The story is haunting and chilling, it’s an incredibly gripping psychological thriller. It isn’t as kinetic and frenzied as many other South Korean revenge film, but it still packs an emotional punch when it needs to. There are some harrowing scenes, and the movie can go from gritty and grounded and into something brutally cold and draining. The movie can be violent, dark and bleak but it’s all done with a purpose. Beneath all the violence lies genuine emotions from everyone affected by these acts, and the movie never falls into a display of cheap thrills. The last third was really well done and a great conclusion to the story. I will say that the movie is quite long, especially at the end. There are so many characters in this movie that are hard to keep track of, some scenes felt dragged out and there’s a lot of exposition that is overdone. Outside of those, I don’t have a huge amount of issues with the movie.

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There are some wonderful performances in this movie, but it ultimately comes down to Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja, the “Lady Vengeance” in this movie. It’s a fantastic performance of a compelling lead character. She’s developed and explored in both flashbacks and the present storyline to give her the backstory and depth needed. She shows such a range throughout the movie, threatening and out for revenge but we also see her more emotional side too. This performance and character definitely plays a big part in the movie working as well as it does. Choi Min-sik (Oh Dae-su in Oldboy) plays the real killer behind the murder that Geum-ja was sentenced for. He is great in his role here, and has a commanding presence on screen.

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Unsurprisingly, Park Chan-wook’s directing is incredible. Although each film in the Vengeance trilogy is similar in some way, each of them has its own distinct style, and Lady Vengeance is no exception. The cinematography is gorgeous, every scene is shot well and is mesmerising. The colour schemes were memorable, especially with how the colour tones slowly shift to black and white in the last half. There is a lot of creativity on display in this movie, with some inventive shots and bold transitions. Although the movie can be violent and gory, it does well at knowing when to not show violence completely. You still feel the impact of these scenes all the same. The score is melancholic and fantastic, and really fits the story really well.

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a fantastic movie on pretty much every front. It’s directed excellently, the story is complex and compelling, and Lee Young-ae is incredible in the interesting lead role. This would be my second favourite of the Vengeance trilogy, and one of my favourite films from Park Chan-wook.

Oldboy (2003) Review

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Oldboy (2003)

Time:  155 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su
Yoo Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin
Kang Hye-jung as Mi-do
Director: Park Chan-wook

A man, held captive for no apparent reason for years, is given a cell phone, money and expensive clothes and released. Unless he finds out the identity of his captor, an even worse fate awaits him.

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Oldboy was the first movie I saw from director Park Chan-wook and it was great, very unique and memorable. Since it had been some years since I last saw it, I decided to rewatch it, and it managed to be even better on second viewing. Fantastic on pretty much every level, it’s one of the best revenge movies ever made.

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The plot follows the lead character who is abducted and held captive in an apartment prison for 15 years. He’s then suddenly released and has to find out who imprisoned him, why he was imprisoned in the first place, and why he was released. I won’t say much about the plot here, if you are a first timer to this movie, go into it knowing as little as possible. It will improve your viewing experience, especially with the twists and turns the plot takes. The writing is great and the story is gripping and fast paced. It starts out as a mystery and turns into a Shakespearean tragedy by the end, layered with clever twists that slowly unravels its mysteries. Oldboy is a revenge movie, and it really is a benchmark in the genre. There is a surprising amount of dark humour which somehow manages to fit in with the rest of the movie. Something to note is that the movie is based off a manga, and so some of the more over the top and pulpy elements of this movie work when you take that into account. Despite some of the over-the-top elements, Oldboy has been called deeply disturbing and nightmarish by many, and that’s because it is. For sure one of the most shocking tales of revenge, it’s twisted and brutal but hard to look away from. The third act is where most of the disturbing stuff comes into play. It really has a perfect finale which rides the many waves of twists and turns that came before, while also being able to end perfectly on an ambiguous note. Watching it again having previously seen how the plot goes, it made for a very different experience, and I was able to appreciate how well everything was put together when I wasn’t overwhelmed with all the revelations the film throws at you.

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The acting from everyone is great, with the main trio particularly delivering some terrific performances. First of all there’s Choi Min-sik as the protagonist Oh Dae-su, who’s on his path of vengeance as he learns why he was locked up for all these years, and who’s responsible. He conveys his character excellently and goes through just about every single emotion here. There’s a moment towards the end of the movie that he absolutely sells with his incredible performance, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without him. Yoo Ji-tae plays the person responsible for Dae-su’s imprisonment, and he’s also a great presence. He’s quite mysterious for the most part of the movie, but he himself also made for an interesting character. He particularly gets to shine at the end of the movie. There’s also Kang Haye-jung as Mi-do, the love interest who plays a vital role, especially in the third act.

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Oldboy is directed very well by Park Chan-wook. First of al the cinematography is stylish, enticing, and has an incredibly unique and memorable look. There’s a lot of surreal and often disturbing imagery, they are still beautifully shot. The action when present is also fantastic, with the camera used to really create a fluidity to the action. The main scene that a lot of people talk about is the one where Dae-su fights around 20-25 people with a hammer in a corridor, it’s shot in one take, the choreography is stunning, and is just all around phenomenal. The editing of the film is very early 2000s but if anything that adds to the style, and also steadily paces the narrative. The sound design is pretty much perfect, and the composed score by Cho Young-Wuk is thrilling and works incredibly well with the rest of the movie.

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Oldboy is an excellent and iconic neo noir revenge film, brutal and disturbing yet beautifully crafted and directed, with a gripping story that’s very well put together, and some incredible performances. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, especially for first time viewers, but if you can handle it, I do think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already.