‘Lady Vengeance’ – the trilogy concludes on Criterion Channel and MUBI

Lady Vengeance (South Korea, 2005), the final film in Park Chan-wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy” (the Korean title roughly translates to Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) leaves the comic book supervillain melodrama and cinematic dementia of Old Boy for an equally dazzling but more human story of righteous vengeance at any cost.

Lee Yeong-ae is the embittered ex-con with the face of an angel and heart blackened by a drive for revenge and Choi Min-sik (the victim of Old Boy) plays the child-murdering monster she targets. She’s after a gruesome justice of a distinctly personal nature (the grisliest moments are left off-screen but the brutality is unforgiving and harsh). That she shares her vengeance with other damaged victims only adds more shades to the conflicted issues.

The film combines the ambiguity and tortured self-destruction (and, yes, the sympathy) of the original Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance with the dazzling direction of Old Boy and a guilt that implicates the audience in the retribution. Faced with evil in the flesh, do we cheer on the grisly justice or question whether turning suffering victim into blood-spattered torturer and executioner brings any peace to the soul?

It won three awards at the Venice Film Festival.

Rated R, in Korean with English subtitles.

Streaming on Criterion Channel and MUBI for a limited time. Add to My List on Criterion Channel or to My List on MUBI or stream free on Kanopy, which is available through most public and college library systems.

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Lady Vengeance [Blu-ray]
Lady Vengeance [DVD]
Vengeance Trilogy [Blu-ray]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases feature three commentary tracks (two by Park and others, one by film critic Richard Pena in English), a disc of interviews, featurettes and deleted scenes, and a third disc featuring an alternate “Fade to White” version of the film that Park introduces as his preferred version, more accurate to his intentions. He slowly leeches the color from the film as it unfolds until it’s a stark, beautiful black and white in the final scenes.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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