Tag Archives: South Korea

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: Death Be a Lady…

In a turn of events of Park Chan-wook’s series, it’s the lady’s turn to be the one seeking vengeance. In this straightforward, lunge at the throat revenge story, Park Chan-wook ends his series. This one is a bit more delicate and see-through than the other movies, but it leaves the series with a bit of a twist and bang.

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young Ae) is a recently released child murderer who smothered a kidnap victim with a pillow to stifle his cries. After confessing, she went to jail for 13 years, performing good deeds and being seen as a saint in jail. She helped out her

Stone. Cold. Fox.

fellow cellmate and seems to have done a complete 180 on being released from jail. She’s cold. She’s calculated. And she’s going after the real killer who framed her. Classic revenge story? You got it.

I was a bit surprised this one was a bit more straightforward with who was seeking revenge against who. Lee Geum-ja is going after Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), that classical actor and wonderful dramatic presence.

I loved this tatoo.

He has less of a role in this movie, but Lee Young Ae makes up for that with a femme fatale performance that would make any man shiver his timbers. What I really liked in this movie is the way that Park Chan-wook wanted the revenge scene (as Lee Geum-ja wanted it) was to be poetic and beautiful at the same time it would be cathartic and an aggressional release.

The cinematography and locations are once again stunning. Snow scenes, an abandoned school and the ironical revenge point, and a few strangely surreal daydreams and flashbacks that occur that I quite liked. I liked the initial setup on Lee Geum-ja in jail. She’s meeting all

Really stunning color scheme right there.

these hardened women criminals and they always label them by name and years served. Then somehow there’s someone who Lee Geum-ja saves them and uses that later on in the film. I enjoyed the whole “Ocean’s 11 feel” for the small part of the film.

The end scene is why you watch this film. You feel for the whole situation and you know that it’s very real human response that is dished out there (no spoilers!). It’s harsh and brutal and it comes from a place most of us dream about but are never given the chance to. You’ll just have to see for yourself…

This is that weird thing I was talking about…

What more is there to say about this? Lee Young Ae is a cold beauty and really sells the part. The movie has this whole quirky, otherwordly feel to it where street justice is dealt out in a modern day world. I just think those South Koreans really know how to make a spectacular set of films. And a cameo by Song Kang-ho and Yu Ji-tae! Get some of this Lady Vengeance. 8.3 out of 10.

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The Red Shoes: Korea’s Hans Christian Andersen

First of all, this movie should be renamed the pink shoes, because clearly (unless I’m colorblind) those shoes were pink. Not that color matters, but it came off as weird… Anyways, this was a pretty satisfactory horror film from South Korea about the old fairy tale about the crazy broad who couldn’t stop shindigging in her red pumps. In this take, a curse is placed on the shoes and you should probably make sure to watch your ankles, cause you’ll get cut off by the shin.

The story centers around Sun-jae (Kim Hye-su) a working wife who is semi-happy with her life. Her husband doles on their daughter, Tae-su (Park Yeoh-ah) and leaves very little love for his wife. One day Sun-jae comes home a little too early from stalking their daughter on her way to dance class. She finds her husband cheating on her and

That’s how the movie kicks off. Bang.

promptly leaves with Tae-su in search of a happier life (a little Pursuit of Happiness, but completely different).

In a run down apartment opposite of the subway, Sun-jae is struggling to start up her eye clinic with the help of hipster before it was called hipster contractor, In-cheol (Kim Sung-chu). With a jealous daughter who misses her father and wishes he mother was gone instead, Sun-jae takes solace in her fancy shoe collection. And then, on the subway, the perfect pair comes along… of… pink, shoes.

A mother and daughter, on a mission… for shoes.

Things start going wrong, horrific visions, her daughter is becoming jealous of a pair of shoes she can’t even fit into, and life is just becoming stressful in general. The perfect elements for a gory psychological thriller. Except for the ending. When a movie has 3 different endings (2 short of LOTR: ROTK) then you know you have a problem. It means the writers second guessed themselves and thought the movie needed more closure/explanation than it actually needed. And that is exactly what happened. You’ll see once you watch the movie, it’s not that bad up until a bit of a struggle with the end. It was 20 minutes too long.

But I loved the way this movie delivered the horror. A lot of it dealt with the wait and spook (jumpy scenes) but the music really dictated the tempo. There were screeching violins, nails on a chalkboard, offbeat music rhythms that really made you feel unsettled. There were some of those psychological scenes that dealt with disturbing images (i.e., one example – not a ruiner – but bird in a bloodbath sink) and a lot of tensions between

Beautiful and tragic.

family members on some adult levels. The director and the cast/crew had a good sense of what creeps people out and what works in a classical sense, and they nailed all the major points.

This is one of those horror movies though that brings in a whole lot more than just horror. This movie tackles family relations, materialism and consumerism (with the shoes and all that, even an ad agency), a woman’s self image and outer appearance, and even feet fetishes. It was done in a very deliberately symbolic manner, and my analytical film mind actually picked up on those cues. This film ended up being a more intelligent horror movie than I thought it could be. That’s worth applauding. The acting was creepily good, special shout out to Kim Hye-su, the star, and a little girl who had to take on more than she probably bargained for, being yelled at by adults (proud of you, Park Yeoh-ah). Overall it was a very visually disturbing movie with an underlying message and too long of an ending. That all adds up to movie you should view for yourself and decide whether you like it or not. Have fun! 6.3 out of 10.

Is it over yet? Who knows…

 


I Saw the Devil: South Korea Does it Again!

So recently in the past few years, I’ve been really getting into South Korean films. And not just horror, but action, drama, and

Byung-hun Lee. Complete badass.

suspense/thriller. It all started with The Host (starring my favorite South Korean actor, Kang-ho Song) and has branched into similar movies by director Jee-Woon Kim. And this includes The Good, The Bad, The Weird, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Uninvited, and A Bittersweet Life. And I have just recently added I Saw the Devil, Je-Woon Kim’s latest masterpiece. And I loved every minute of it.

This latest film by Je-Woon Kim is a suspense/thriller with a few elements of twisted gore and horror, the perfect mix if you ask me. Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee), a special agent/detective, has just recently lost his wife was to a brutal murder, not knowing she was pregnant. Upon discovery, Soo-hyeon decides to pursue this serial murderer and get revenge. Once he finds Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), Soo-hyeon goes hardcore after Kyung-chul with a fury and vengeance that almost seems unfair.

Using his secret agent skills and the aide of a tracking device, Soo-hyeon proceeds to beat the living crap out of Kyung-chul and then admitting him to a local hospital after every beat-down. With no idea why this is happening, a cat and mouse game comes about for the ages. Who will prevail?

Min-sik Choi. Sick and fantastic.

There are some freaking great aspects to this movie. First of all, the mind game that’s created echoes another film that Min-sik Choi starred in, Oldboy. Without a rhyme or reason to this menacing, violent game, people are killed left and right in pursuit of justice and cold-blooded revenge. What’s nice though, is that there’s a clearly defined line between good and evil. You know for certain that Kyung-Chul is evil and Soo-hyeon is good. What changes is the blurred line between the two and who becomes more evil in the end, and also, more importantly, who has the last laugh.

With the pain and emotion behind the actors, both for different purposes, the hidden killer inside

Thank you for a fantastic movie, Jee-Woon Kim.

everyone is unleashed and survival becomes a determining factor after all. With sick and subtle gory scenes, an occasional bare hands brawl, and even some hack and slash action, this movie goes places where normal cops can’t go. To bring in the bad guy and exact your revenge, just how far would you go to do the deed? A definite 10 out of 10.