Lady Vengeance (2005)
After a thirteen-year imprisonment for the kidnap and murder of a six-year-old boy, Guem-Ja Lee seeks vengeance on the man truly responsible for the boy's death. With the help of fellow inmates and reunited with her daughter, she gets closer and closer to her goal.
After a thirteen-year imprisonment for the kidnap and murder of a six-year-old boy, Guem-Ja Lee starts seeking revenge on the man who was really responsible for the boy's death. With the help of fellow inmates and reunited with her daughter, she gets closer and closer to her goal. But will her actions lead to the relief she seeks?
- Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) has spent thirteen years in prison for the murder of a little boy and is about to be released. We see a group of carolers dressed in bright red Santa Claus suits, waiting for her release. One of them remarks that Geum-ja is rumored to be an angel. A man dressed in normal clothes, the Preacher ( Byeong-ok Kim) waits with them and seeing her come out, directs them to sing. Guem-ja approaches, stops and stares at the camera stone faced. Although it's snowing and very cold she is wearing only light clothing. The preacher asks about the winter clothes he sent her, and then uncovers a big block of tofu, presenting it to her. Grinning, he says " It's been hard, hasn't it? 13 and a half years. I'm so proud of you."
We see news footage about Geum-ja, covering the murder of a little boy, Park Won-mo. One of his class mates describes the last time he saw the boy. We're told that Geum-ja, 19 years old at the time, confessed to the murder and we see her in police custody before a crowd. The news announcer explains that as shocking as the brutal murder was, everyone was more shocked at Geum-ja's good looks. A director wanted to make a movie about her, and the public took to wearing polka dot dresses, similar to what she wore when arrested.
We see Geum-ja, newly in prison, meeting with the preacher who says "Behind that wicked witch's face of yours, I saw the presence of an angel." We see her praying with the preacher. She tells another prisoner "An angel, could that be true? Do you really think an angel resides in me? If so, where was that angel when I was committing such an evil act? I always wondered about this after hearing what the preacher said, and then I realized, that the angel inside me only reveals itself when I invoke it." We see Geum-ja helping other prisoners. She comforts an elderly woman, does another woman's make up, bakes a beautiful cake, and helps a woman study. She explains that the act of invoking an angel is called prayer and says "Actually, prison is an ideal place to learn to pray, because we know that we are all sinners in here." We see that Geum-is speaking into a microphone and there's a banner behind her which says "Testimonials of faith day for Inmates, 1997" She receives much applause from prisoners and officials alike. The preacher is extra enthusiastic, standing to clap for her.
We then catch up with the preacher and Geum-ja in present day, resuming with a look at the tofu block. The preacher explains "It's a tradition to eat tofu on release, so that you'll live white and never sin again. Geum-ja reaches for the tofu, but rather than take it she intentionally knocks it to the ground, stunning the carolers and leaving the preacher shaken, in tears. She looks at him coldly and says "Why don't you go screw yourself?" and leaves.
Guem-ja visits a hair salon to see her friend and former fellow inmate, Kim Yang-hee (Yeong-ju Seo) Kim is overoyed to see her, crying and giving Geum-ja a hug. We flashback to prison, and see Yang-hee arriving, mentioning that she heard of someone in this prison whose "face would shine." Yang-hee is tripped by another inmate, Ma-nyeo (Ko Su-hee) also known as "the witch" before they all go to bed. While everyone sleeps, we see Geum-ja from behind, sitting, facing a wall, as her face gives off a very bright light.Kim recounts her offense, strangling her pimp. Geum-ja teaches her to pray and lament past lives, and we see that Kim's face glows when she prays. In the present, Kim brings Geum-ja to her home. Kim tries to be affectionate and when Guem-ja is only cold, she remarks that she's changed, and asks if she's started the plan already. Geum-ja says "No. The plan was already started 13 years ago." THey go to to bed, and Geum-ja prays until having a vision of a snowy wasteland, where she is dragging what appears to be a dog with a man's head across the snow. She looks him in the eye and says "Farewell" and shoots him in the forehead. We see that she has dark red eye shadow as she smiles afterwards. We see that the sleeping Geum-ja is also smiling.
The next day we see Geum-ja walking down a city street and ending up at Won Mo's parents' kitchen table. Geum-ja has a knife in her hand and slams it down, cutting off one of her own fingers. We're told that she planned to beg their forgiveness until she had no fingers left. The parents are horrified and call an ambulance. Won-mo's father restrains her while they wait for it to arrive. All of the money she had, is needed to get her a finger operation. Days later, she finds work at a bakery, working for a Mr. Chang (Dal-su Oh). She unintentionally causes a scene when a young employee, Geun-shik (Shi-Hoo Kim) is so taken with her beauty that he drops everything he's carrying. He awkwardly asks if he can call her "elder sister." She responds "Just call me Geum-ja."
We see her meeting with another ex fellow inmate, Woo Soo Yong (Bu-Seon Kim) who describes the early days of prison, saying "She cried like a baby.Man, it was so depressing." We see a flashback of this happening, and her cell mates getting annoyed with her. A quick flashback shows her robbing a place in a mask with her boyfriend. She explains that she felt like she was going to die because she couldn't be with him. We then see her passing out in the prison yard, as she narrates that she had kidney failure, adding "Then this bitch says she'll give me one of her kidneys. It's not as if a kidney's a bit of fluff, you give away so easily." We see Geum-ju in the medical ward in the bed next to her.Geum-ja looks at her and says "Damn bitch. It brings me bad luck. Stop crying!" before smiling. Geum-ja then meets Woo Soo's boyfriend and we see another flashback of the robbery, as he describes how fearless she was saying he's "married to a goddess." Woo Soo blames him being at her side for her fearlessness. The two fawn all over each other while Guem-ja stares at them expressionless. Woo Soo tells her boyfriend that Geum-ja is "readying a magnificent plan." and asks him to help her. Geum-ja produces a book which contains many folded pieces of paper, which they pin to the wall, producing what looks like plans to build a gun. He asks where she got it, and we see another flashback in prison.
Guem-ja is sitting with an elderly woman, Ko Sun-sook, who tells her "Go save yourself." Ko was a spy from North Korea who had Alzheimer's. She speaks to Geum-ja about dogs and chicken bones, while Guem-ja calmly looks after her. We're told that she volunteered to do this. She gives Geum-ja the book, saying "for you have vengeance to take, comrade."
We meet another inmate via flashback, Oh Soo-hee (Mi-ran Ra.) We see her getting taking advantage of by a Ma-nyeo, who forces Soo-hee to pleasure her. This happens again another day in the prison bath. Behind them, we see someone cleaning the floor with a mop and leaving. Once sexually satisfied, the tough woman walks away while Soo-hee cries. She slips on the wet floor however, and hits her head on the floor. Soo-hee looks back and sees this, as well as Geum-ja returning to the room looking over the woman's body. Geum-ja waves at Soo-hee, showing a bar of soap in her hand. Soo-hee in the present asks about the red eye shadow. Guem-ja answers "People are always saying I look kind hearted." Soo-hee is a sculptor, and Guem-ja hands her a paper with a drawing, asking if she can make it in silver. Soo hee asks is she's killed "the bastard" yet. Guem-ja says "Not yet." and says she's been busy. She agrees though that she's "saving the best for last."
We see Guem-ja at work at the bakery. A man seems fascinated with her and approaches her saying she's changed a lot and he barely recognized her. The man is the detective who was in charge of her case. When the detective's wife asks who Geum-ja "was" Geum-ja tells her story, even teasing the woman saying "I kidnapped and killed a boy...Don't worry, I didn't eat him." The woman leaves the bakery, hysterical, dropping her goods, saying "These were made by hands that have killed." We flashback and see the detective questioning her. Geum-ja is almost angry, insisting that she killed the boy. The detective doesn't seem convinced, asking her to describe a marble the boy had, which went missing, which she can't do. We then see the police escorting her through crime scenes, forcing her to reenact how she did it. At all the scenes, Mr. Baek (Min-sik Choi) is there, and makes slight finger gestures which appear to have some meaning to her.
Guem-ja visits an adoption agency. The woman there tells her she can't give out any records. We flashback to see 18 year old Geum-ja, who the narrator describes as "pretty enough to turn any boy's head, but wasn't the least bit particular." We see her calling her teacher, Mr. Baek, reminding him that he told her she was sexy. She tells him that she's pregnant and asks if she can live with him. He asks about her parents and the baby's father, but she says her parents don't want her there, and the father is "just a big kid, not ready for fatherhood." We see her at Mr. Baek's place, getting surprised that he comes to see her, right out of the shower without clothes. Back in the present, Geum-ja climbs up the building where the adoption agency is, breaks a window and steals some files.
She then goes to the bakery late that night, surprising Mr. Chang. She asks him for an advance. He says no, but she helps him decorate a cake which he seems to have trouble with, as his hands are shaky. He tells her that he was astonished at a strawberry mousse made by a prison inmate who, using poor ingredients, made a dessert "fit for a king." (referring to her) She just says "Three months advance." He doesn't agree but she acts as if he does, writing down her bank account number, and leaving the cake looking magnificent. She leaves with Guen-shik, who is asking her about killing, figuring she had done something wrong and paid for it and that was it. She tells him however, that she's planning to kill someone else.
He's nervous around her, and talks about his future. She gets him back to his room and propositions him to have sex, taking him completely off guard. Afterwards, she tells him, "Mr. Baek said there are good kidnappings and bad kidnappings. He said it was a good kidnapping if the child was returned safely. And since they're rich, a little ransom wouldn't make much difference. And, although they'd have to worry for a few days, the emotional reunion would make the family bond more closely. That's what he said, but then he went and killed Won-mo. The boy kept crying and Mr. Baek said he'd kill him if he didn't stop in five minutes. But then he really did kill him. If he were alive, he'd be your age now, but he's dead. Then the police found a witness. Someone saw me taking Won-mo to a bathhouse.Then one day when i came home from the market, my daughter was gone. I got a call from Mr. Baek. He said to confess and take all the blame or my girl would die too. The kidnapper had kidnapped a kidnapper's kid. Isn't that funny?" She gives him her keys and tells him to keep her candles burning.
She flies to Australia, where her daughter lives with adoptive parents. We see her reading them a letter in English, which says she came to see her daughter "once and for all." They don't seem very pleased about it, but they have drinks and they lighten up. The stepmother (Anne Cordiner) tells Geum-ja she's jealous, that she had such a beautiful daughter, but adds "She is now our life!" Bothe her and Geum-ja laugh wildly about it, geu-ja laughing herself right out of her chair. The stepfather (Tony Barry) shows her a picture and says "We love her very much. She's got such a beautiful soul." The stepparents quickly shift from laughing to crying the stepmother saying "What would we do without our Jenny?" That night Geum-ja shares the room with her daughter Jenny (Yea-Young Kwon) who asks if she can take her to Seoul. Geum-ja refuses, reminding her of her "parents." Jenny won't accept that answer and the two argue loudly. In the morning we see the stepparents on the couch looking devastated. Jenny flies to Korea with Geum-ja.
We see that her plans are coming together, The pistol is completed and has elaborate silver sculpting on the handle. Woo Soo Young asks "What's the use of all this fanciness?" Geum-ja insists "It has to be pretty. Everything should be pretty." Woo Soo Young's boyfriend tells her she'll need to be up close as it has a very short range. That night, before bed Jenny asks "Why'd you dump me?" Geum-ja answers by telling her they'll go on a picnic. She asks again, however. This time she answers "That's right, a picnic." Jenny wakes up in the night and sees Won-mo playing marbles. She goes back to bed when he doesn't speak English.
Geum-ja takes Jenny out the next day and they pick up a puppy. Geun-shik drives them around and Jenny sits in the back seat painting her face to look like a cat. They go out into the woods and find an abandoned schoolhouse. Geun-shik tries to teach Jenny Korean, while Geum-ja takes the gun out for practice.She remembers Mr. Baek in a classroom. We see Mr. Baek eating dinner with a younger woman. He gets up while she's still eating and lifts up her dress from behind, initiating sex. While he's taking her, she informs him of dinner plans. He insists that she isn't the one to pay. We see the caption showing that her name is Park Yi-jeong (Seung-shin Lee) and she served time with Guem-ja. He sits back down at the table to finish his dinner. We see Yi-jeong 's flashback to prison. She's being bullied by Ma-nyeo who had intimidated Oh So-hee, only she's getting beaten up.
Geum-ja is later feeding Ma-nyeo in the medical ward. We see that her hair is coming out in clumps. Ma-nyeo says "I used to have a strong stomach. I don't know what the problem is." Geum-ja smiles and feeds her and says "I enjoy helping you." Ma-nyeo remarks "You really are kind hearted." Ma-nyeo is having serious and audible stomach issues. She reassures Geum-ja that she only likes "plump girls." Geum-ja however, tells her, that she'd be happy to eat a lot and put on weight as long as she keeps taking her "medicine." which Geum-ja then puts all over her food. Ma-nyeo leans over to get sick and Geum-ja adds "And, hurry up and die." We see Yi-jeong asking Geum-ja later "You fed her bleach? For how long?" Geum-ja says "Three years." After that Guem-ja inherited the nickname "Witch" which Ma-nyeo had, but was still called "kind hearted Geum-ja." We see Park talking with Geum-ja, saying "It has to be tonight, I can't take it anymore." The narrator explains that another ex inmate found where Mr. Baek was working and they arranged to have Park Yi-jeong visit him, leading to a "romance."
The preacher meets Mr. Baek in a classroom. He gives Mr. Baek a picture of Geum-ja at the bakery, meeting with Yi-jeong . He pays the preacher, who says the money will be used for the lord's work. Mr. Baek calls Yi-jeong, (while looking at pictures of her and Geum-ja) and she tells him to start dinner without her. He says he'll wait. We see that he has two other men at the table with him. Guem-ja calls, and Park tells her she has to make Mr. Baek eat before they do something. The two men who were with Mr. Baek, watch Geum-ja leave work with Jenny. The men attempt to abduct them and we see that Park has already been delivered to Mr. Baek, and she watches him eat while tied to a chair. They beat on Geum-ja for a while assuming she's unconscious. She surprises them by getting up and shooting the closest guy in the head, while the guy holding Jenny attempts to back away. She catches him getting right up to him before firing, the narrator saying "Even in these stressful circumstances, she always remembered the range of the gun."
We see that Mr. Baek has fallen unconscious with his face right into his plate. A badly beaten Yi-jeong laughs. Geum-ja and Jenny get there and Geum-ja pushes him to the floor with a spoon. She then starts cutting off his hair. Shortly, we see Yi-jeong and Geum-ja with Mr. Baek bound on the floor and Jenny asleep nearby. Geum-ja finds a letter Jenny had written, explaining how she felt about being dumped, that she wants to know the reasons, and telling her saying sorry once is not enough, but she should apologize at least three times. Geum-ja uses a Korean-English dictionary to read the letter. Yi-jeong drives to the abandoned classroom they'd found on their picnic, with Jenny and Mr. Baek in the back.
Geum-ja stands behind Mr. Baek, who is tied to a chair, holding her gun to the back of his head, forcing him to translate her Korean into English for Jenny, who sits on her heels nearby. Geum-ja explains that she wanted to have her very much and loved her, but had to go to jail. She adds that she plans to return her to Australia when she's done with Mr. Baek, as her "sins are too big and deep and I don't deserve a sweet child like you. You're innocent, but you had to grow up without a mother.But, that's also part of the punishment I must take. Listen carefully. Everyone makes mistakes. But, if you sin, you have to make atonement for it. Atonement, understand? Atonement. That's right. You have to make atonement. Big atonement for big sins, small atonement for small sins." Jenny asks if she's going to kill Mr. Baek, and wen she says yes, she asks why. Geum-ja says "Because, he made a sinner out of me." Jenny asks what she's done and she answers "This man kidnapped and killed a little boy, and, I helped him." Jenny offers to "say sorry to his mother." which makes Geum-ja both laugh and cry. Jenny asks "You were happy with me, right?" and she says "Too happy, for a sinner." Geum-ja then says "I'm sorry." in English, three times and even adds another.
She puts the gun up to Mr. Baek's head, but hears his phone ring and finds a key chain attached to it, with little toys hanging from it. She holds it in front of him and removes his gag. He asks "What's with the eye shadow?" prompting her to pull him backwards to the floor with his own tie. She starts kicking him. She gags him again, and then shoots him in each foot. She calls the detective, who is out with a team, who have found some children's bodies in the woods and are digging them up. She meets with him and shows him the key chain, including the missing marble. She tells him "If you'd found the real killer back then, these children wouldn't have died. Right? You know how this feels. There were four." While Geum-ja is digging through Mr. Baek's place, Mr. Chang calls her and she tells him she can't come to work. He says there are two people looking for her who won't say who they are. We see that it's the Australian stepparents, who both smile, but can't speak anything but English. She finds video of the murdered children and shows the detective, who has to throw up. We see the Australians with Jenny, who is watching video of her cat playing.
Geum-ja calls all of the parents of the murdered children to the classroom along with the detective and shows them the video with Mr. Baek in it clearly. Of course, there are extreme reactions, from screaming to throwing things, and some don't appear to register anything at all. She acknowledges each child writing their names and the dates on the chalkboard. Grief stricken, they break down uncontrollably. Once calm, she tells them "He was a teacher at English schools in affluent neighborhoods. He'd pick his victim, kidnap and kill them, then move on to another school. He'd never pick a child from one of his own classes, which is why he was never under suspicion. Children annoyed him, so he would tape them right after kidnapping them and killed them straightaway. The voices you heard on the line while negotiating the ransom were taped off the videos after the kids were already dead. Now, you have two options. If you want lawful punishment we will hand him over to Chief Choi here. But, if you want a speedier, more personalized death for him, you can have it right here and now. One of the parents asks "Does he have a child of his own?" Geum-ja says he's supposed to be sterile. Another parent asked what he needed the money for. She explains that he just put it in the bank and it will be returned. A mother agrees "With no kid, what did he need all that money for?" Geum-ja says "He was going to buy a yacht."
They all discuss the options before them. One woman suggesting that turning him in would just lead to long trials. Another suggests that they let Geum-ja do it, since she's already been to jail. Another counters that that is too cowardly as they were their own children. One of them stresses that no one should be forced to cross a line they don't choose to. They start to take a vote, and the concern is raised that someone who votes against their own justice could tell the police. Geum-ja settles it by implying that if anyone informs she will come after them. Won Mo's mother suggests that they all do it together, reminding her husband that he couldn't touch Geum-ja's severed finger. They agree that they "visit" Mr. Baek in groups as they choose. We see then that Mr. Baek has been able to hear the whole conversation via speaker, from the room where he's tied and gagged.
They pick numbers on slips of paper to decide who goes in first. They're all given plastic coats and various weapons are available. The detective gives them some tips on proper handling of a knife, to avoid them getting hurt. Won Mo's mother goes first with Geum-ja accompanying her. She asks him Why. He answers "Ma'am there's no such thing as a perfect person." She leaves the room dazed with a bloody knife in her hand. Four of them go in together the next visit. One of the men says "This isn't going to bring our son back. Is it honey?" No one answers, as they all rush to attack him and Geum-ja watches.
One of the women in the waiting room, one of the boy's sister, mentions to another's grandmother that the parents all look well off. She says that they could barely afford to keep her brother in his school, and lost their house and everything they had to come up with the ransom. The grandmother listens and answers "My daughter in law killed herself and my son left the country. We all have our own stories to tell." Her father rushes up with an ax to take his turn. She reminds him that the grandmother still has a turn. He collapses on the way out the door, covered in blood and they help him to the other room. The grandmother gets her turn and doesn't bother with the plastic. She looks at him and walks out. We next see the detective pulling scissors with a name tag on them out of Mr. Baek's neck.
They work together to drain the blood from the plastic sheet beneath Mr. Baek, and dispose of the evidence. The detective takes a group picture of them all and they bury everytihng including the body in the woods together. Geum-ja asks them to give her a moment before filling in the hole. SHe shoots him with her custom pistol, then drops it in with him and they resume filling.
We see everyone together later, sharing a cake at the bakery. They sing happy birthday and blow out candles. The sister of one of the boys whispers to Geum-ja asking if she'll wire the money to their account, giving her the account number, prompting the others to give their own. Everything turns silent and one of the parents says "In France, when there's a break in the conversation like this, they say an angel is passing, causing them all to look up.Guen-shik comes into the bakery and they realize it's snowing and rush out. Geum-ja gets a cigarette from her purse and sees Won Mo's marble roll across the floor. She then sees Won-mo in the corner as if he'd rolled it. He's smoking a cigarette although he's only a little boy. She starts to apologize, but he puts a gag in her mouth, as he ages to how old he would've been and stands up leaving her kneeling in front of him. He looks down at her and walks away.
We see Jenny in bed with her stepparents, woken up by smoke, although they still sleep. Geum-ja leaves the bakery and Geun-shik sings after her, the lyrics in the song daring her to look back. He asks if she's really sending Jenny back, she doesn't look back or answer. We see Jenny walking also through the snow barefoot. The narrator says "Geum-ja made a great mistake in her youth, and used other people to achieve her own goals. But she still didn't find the redemption she so desired." We see her start running with Geun-shik following a little behind. We see that she's run into Jenny and kneels, giving her a hug. THe narrator picks up "In spite of this, no. because of this, I liked Geum-ja." Geum-ja stands offering Jenny a cake. She says "Be white. Live white. Like this." Jenny sticks her finger in the cake and licks it off. She then sticks her finger in it again, but offers it to Geum-ja. "You too." she says, although she licks it off her finger herself when Geum-ja doesn't act. Jenny looks at the snow coming down and says "More white." opening her mouth to catch a snowflake. Geun-shik does the same thing. Geum-ja looks up and smiles, shaking as if she just realized something. She then strikes her head into the cake. Jenny hugs her from behind and the narrator says "Farewell Geum-ja" and we watch the snow fall on the three of them.