Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2006)

And here we have the virulent flipside to A History of Violence, a nasty and clumsy thing designed to make the audience feel good about abhorrently violent revenge. Park Chan-wook takes everything that was worthwhile about the previous two films in his makeshift "revenge trilogy" and blows it all to pieces, leaving bloody ragged chunks everywhere. Strange to think that this most controlled of South Korean genre directors would fall prey to the South Korean Tone Shift, but fall he does; this time around, Park can't decide if he's making a drama, a black comedy, a character piece or what. The tonal clashes damage the film he's trying to make to the point where I was asking myself if this is actually intended in seriousness (the useless scenes with the adpoted Australian parents are the worst offenders in this regard) -- and that's even before we get to the noxious and manipulative climax. Now, I know there's a lot of people who want to see this, so I'll avoid spoilers as best as I can even as I desperately would implore you to stay far away from this thing. But the ending to this film... wow. It brings up issues, very thorny issues, and then proceeds to trample all over them in an effort to sate its own bloodlust. It pays lip service to the kinds of things that were deeply considered in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy even as it defies those objections in every way, which to me seems like an especially rancid form of doublethink. The biggest cheap shot in this regard is the inclusion of the videotape. It's a queer MacGuffin, in that its true purpose is not to unite the people onscreen against a common enemy but to unite the sympathies of the audience towards the disagreeable actions of the characters. What was needed here was something like Fritz Lang's ending to M, and instead we get a group of righteous crusaders triumphing in a zero-sum game. What I'm trying to say is that I'm not buying what you're pushing, Mr. Park. You can go fuck yourself if you think this film says something about bloody revenge other than you believe that it's often justifiable.

Grade: D-


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