An intensely stylish, stylishly intense thriller

When South Korean director Park Chan-wook won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2004 for Oldboy (the second installment of his “vengeance trilogy,” after 2002’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), he was pushed ahead of the rest of the Asian “extreme cinema” pack. He finally reached a whole new audience, one that ordinarily wouldn’t think of seeing a violent epic not directed by Quentin Tarantino (who is, of course, a huge Park Chan-wook fan).

His new movie, Lady Vengeance (out on DVD today), tells the story of Lee Geum-Ja, who, at 19, took the fall for the murder and abduction of a child. During her 13 years in prison she plots perverse revenge.

Lady alternates between a quietly seething hyper-focus and plot twists that are absurdly, cartoonishly over-the-top (credit Lee Yeong-ae for imbuing the Lady with an unlikely dignity). But the violence here is operatic, even exquisite, and it’s mostly implied off-screen, which gives Lady’s darkly funny melodrama more room to breathe.

It’s an unsettling, quasi-biblical, quasi-Zen morality tale. Tarantino, no doubt, wishes he’d directed it.

“>WATCH the trailer for Lady Vengeance

“>BUY Lady Vengeance, 2005; 112 minutes

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