Vengeance Trilogy: Lady Vengeance (aka Chinjeolhan geumjassi) DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by Palisades Tartan

Why don't you go screw yourself? – Geum-ja


Directed by Park Chan-wook
Written by Chung Seo-kyoung and Park Chan-wook
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 112 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on March 16th, 2010

Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja
Choi Min-sik as Mr. Baek



Lady Vengeance (also known as Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is the third and final film in Park Chan-wook's Vengeance trilogy. It is noticeably different in tone than its predecessors, as it has a much lighter feel — at points bordering on black comedy. Make no mistake, though, even if Lady is doesn't have the same level of despair as the prior films, it is by no means cheerful.

In Lady Vengeance, co-writer/director Park Chan-wook strays away from the theme of his earlier films of numerous people looking for revenge for their own reasons and instead goes the more traditional route found in films of this nature. In Lady's case, the protagonist is Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae – J.S.A.: Joint Security Area), a woman recently released from prison and looking to settle a score against the person who put her there.

At first, it is unclear why Geum-ja would be so intent on looking to get even with someone, when she confessed to kidnapping and killing a young boy, but it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Soon enough, you are rooting for her in her hunt for the person responsible for her taking the fall, even if all the pieces aren't in place yet on why you should be on her side. You aren't sure how, you aren't sure why, but you know she was royally screwed and the person who did it must pay.


Lady is told through a mixture of present time and flashbacks, slowly unfolding the mystery of Geum-ja's plight. A plan 13 years in the making, Geum-ja recruits a variety of people to help her carry out her revenge, from former cellmates — who are more than eager to assist her — to, at the end, help from the most unlikely of sources.

As much as I enjoyed Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and OldBoy, in particular for the depth they went in exploring the motives of revenge, Lady was extraordinarily pleasing in its own right. It still manages to delve into the characters' inner turmoil — more so than most other films of this nature — but is not nearly as emotionally draining as the prior films. In Lady, the protagonist and antagonist are crystal clear and knowing who to cheer for makes Lady not as heavy as the first two. That doesn't mean, however, that anyone would confuse Lady's style with something like Savage Streets (a film which I love). Oh, no. Just because the film is more straightforward, it still is multilayered enough to be more than just a standard revenge flick.

Geum-ja is a woman crushed by torment. She went to prison for something she didn't do and in addition to losing a part of her life, she also lost her child (who was an infant when she went in). Now released from prison, she has to deal with closing the door to one part of her past by getting some retribution, she also has to re-establish a relationship with a daughter that doesn't even know her. Geum-ja has her work cut out for her.

Lee Young-ae is nothing short of amazing as Geum-ja. She is forced to display such a wide variety of emotions throughout the film and a lesser actor could have potentially destroyed the movie. However, Lee took this incredibly complex character, made it her own and completely owned the role. There are times when Geum-ja seems so sweet and angelic, but at the same time you can see in her eyes she is not a woman to be reckoned with. The best aspect of the character is that she is so focused on what she needs to accomplish, at first glance it seems she does not pay attention to those around her, but, as time goes on, you find that quite the opposite is true. Lee was so good in this, I cannot possibly fathom any coming even close to such a performance.


There are also a lot of familiar faces from OldBoy in Lady. Choi Min-sik returns here in a pivotal role, and is wonderfully creepy. Kim Byeong-ok, who was the memorable Mr. Han in OldBoy, shines here as the preacher. And Oh Dai-Su (who OldBoy fans will remember with two words: Tooth extraction) plays Geum-ja's boss who tells the Best Story Ever on why he has a limp.

Like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and OldBoy, Lady is superbly shot. The scenes themselves are as important to the telling of the story as the characters within them. Many times if Geum-ja is in the scene with another character, it is shot in such a way that she is not part of their world. A good example is shown when she is released from prison she is greeted by her preacher boyfriend (so he thinks) and a group of people singing a joyous song for her freedom. And it shot in such a way that she is shown one side, while everyone else is opposite of her. From the beginning it is made clear that is Geum-ja against the world, and that visual metaphor is kept throughout the film.

On the surface, Lady Vengeance tells a classical tale of revenge, but to describe it as such would be unjust. It's an engrossing film both visually and emotionally, and there couldn't have been a better closer to Park Chan-wook's Vengeance trilogy.


Video and Audio:

There are two versions of Lady Vengeance in this set. The first is the theatrical release, the other is the "Fade to White" version found on disc two.

Oddly enough, the disc I received for Lady Vengeance is not anamorphic, but rather a 4:3 hard matte on the 2:35:1 image. Using the stretch feature on my Oppo made the feature more than watchable, though. That said, even with the stretch, the colors are exquisite. The flesh tones have a natural look and Geum-ja's eye shadow hits the mark it's looking for when you first see it as it really does stand out. Blacks are solid and deep and there is no indication of any digital noise or edge enhancement. Because of the non-anamorphic picture, the video for this version will not be graded.


The "Fade to White" presentation I received is anamorphic and looks as good as the theatrical version. The difference here, though, is as the film progresses, color is slowly bled out of the movie ending up with a stark black and white picture. Considering the topic of the movie and the "good versus evil" nature of it, this is an interesting decision. I prefer the theatrical release with its colors, but this is more than worth a watch to see Park's original intention. This version will be graded in lieu of the theatrical.

Neither of the versions' Korean DTS tracks do not "jump" as much as the Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance disc, but they are still quite impressive for a film that doesn't need to rely on such a track. The audio is clear, surrounds are used appropriately and the entire thing is well balanced.

Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 and English and Spanish (feature only) subtitles are also offered.


Special Features:

Disc 1:

  • Director Park Chan-wook and Actress Lee Young-ae Commentary
  • Director, DoP and Art Director Commentary
  • Critic Richard Peña Commentary

Disc 2:

  • "Fade To White" version of Lady Vengeance
  • Park Chan-wook introduction to the "Fade To White" version
  • Director Park Chan-wook and Actress Lee Young-ae Commentary
  • Director, DoP and Art Director Commentary
  • Critic Richard Peña Commentary

Disc 3:

  • Making of Lady Vengeance
    • Making of Featurette
    • Electronic Press Kit ("EPK") includes Teaser, Trailer, "Highlight" and a different "Making-of" feature
  • Style of Lady Vengeance
    • Visualization
    • Production Design
    • Costume & Makeup
    • Art
    • CG
  • Deleted Scenes with Commentary
  • Park Chan-wook
    • Interview with Park Chan-wook
    • Park Chan-wook, "Mr. Vengeance"
    • Photography featurette
    • "Director's Choice", A short film recommended by Park Chan-wook
  • Character Interviews
    • Lee Geum-ja
    • Professor Baek
    • Prisoners
    • Families
  • Lady Vengeance in Venice
  • Get Together
  • Trailer, TV Spots, Poster Gallery

Like OldBoy, Palisades Tartan leaves no stone unturned when it comes to special features.

Of the three commentaries, I enjoyed the Park and Lee commentary the most. It seems very intimate, as if the two are reminiscing over the film rather than recording it for a DVD. It does have a couple of dry spots, as well as a few of the dreaded "I like this scene" moments, but there are some interesting stories throughout.

The second commentary with Park,  the Chung Chung-hoon (the director of photography) and Cho Hwa-sung (the art director) and is a lot more technical, discussing how shots were set up, what kind of film was used, the decisions on colors and more.

In the third and final commentary, Richard Peña, the Associate Professor of Film at Columbia University, goes into great detail on the symbolism spread throughout the movie. Peña is obviously a big fan of Lady, and he really is quite knowledgeable.

The three commentaries are the same on both disc one and two.


Disc three contains a slew of featurettes and interviews. There are two "Making of" featurettes, one stand alone and one found in the EPK. The stand alone is the better of the two as it's more of a true behind-the-scenes type of piece. The one found in the EPK consists more of clips from the movie than anything else (which is understandable because of what it's found on).

"The Style of Lady Vengeance" consists of five featurettes that discuss topics from visualization to the CGI used in the film. I'm really impressed that, like the majority of featurettes in this Vengeance box set, they are all fluff free, and there is actually solid information gleaned from watching them. I wish there was a way to play them all at once (they can only be played individually), but that's just one small niggle. Being an effects fan, the CG was the most interesting as it showed how CGI was subtly incorporated into some of the scenes in Lady.

Of the "Park Chan-wook" section, all of the featurettes are worth a watch, but "Interview with Park Chan-wook" is the clear winner. Running 42 minutes, Park talks about numerous topics surrounding Lady Vengeance, including his own personal feelings on revenge. This is the only one not subtitled, as there is someone translating onscreen.

"Park Chan-wook, "Mr. Vengeance"" feels like a studio piece, as there isn't much gained that isn't found in the other, better, featurettes. Basically, it's people talking up Lady Vengeance and very lightly touching upon some of the more interesting aspects of Lady, such as topic of filming it in black and white.

"Photography featurette" is a brief 10 minute piece about the photography on the set. Park discusses some of the pictures taken during the filming of Lady Vengeance.

The Freaking Family is the subject of ""Director's Choice", A short film recommended by Park Chan-wook". Park tells of why he enjoyed the film, and the impact it had on him. (The Freaking Family movie itself is not included on the disc.)


"Character Interviews" is exactly what the title implies. Various members of the cast are interviewed and discuss things such as how they landed their role and how they feel about the character they played.

"Lady Vengeance in Venice" follows Park and Lee Young-ae as they do interviews and meet and greets at a film festival in Venice. This one is what it is, and is probably the only feature that can be skipped.

"Get Together", on the other hand, is a fun featurette interviewing some of the stars who came back from OldBoy to cameo in Lady Vengeance.

Rounding it out are deleted scenes (with optional commentary), trailers, TV spots and a poster gallery.



Video: 4.5 Stars
Audio: 4.5 Stars


While each film in Park Chan-wook's Vengeance trilogy is independent of one another, there is a natural progression of style and tone from one film to the next. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is riddle with despair and depression, and is emotionally draining to watch because you feel for every character.

OldBoy is not quite as damning as Sympathy, but the powerhouse of an ending leaves you reeling and breathless, making you think about it for days afterward.

Lady Vengeance is the easiest to swallow of the three, but even Lady has an ending that pulls at the heartstrings more so than other films of its type.

Palisades Tartan went all out with the Vengeance set, an eight disc beast packed with more features than you could possibly ask for. This is an absolute must buy, as it's not just a set for fans of revenge movies or Asian cinema, but also a set for fans of film. Each movie in this trilogy stands on its own, but when watched together as a triple feature, it is quite the experience. Buy it now.


The Vengeance Trilogy is a Best Buy exclusive until June 15th. You can also pre-order the Vengeance Trilogy from Amazon by clicking one of the covers below:

Click a cover to order from Amazon US.




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About The Author
Steve Pattee
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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