“Hell hath no fury like a woman… Well, let’s just leave it at that, shall we?”
After inflicting Forbidden Warrior on Chris, my stock with her had slumped like Morgan Stanley. Fortunately, this Korean serial-killer flick provided a good measure of redemption. It stars in a department store, where Sun-Jung (Uhm) sees a mother abusing her young daughter, before leaving her and going into a stall. Sun-Jung shepherds the girl outside, breaks into the stall and stabs the mother repeatedly. The case is investigated by Detective Oh (Mun), who spots his ex-wife in the store security video. When bodies keep turning up, though killed in different ways, the police link the cases due to the cartoon stickers found on each scene. Oh gradually comes to suspect his wife is taking revenge on those holds she responsible – directly, or otherwise – for the death of their child, killed in a brutal kidnapping previously. Is that really the case, and if so, does he have the moral fortitude to turn in a woman he still loves as a murderer?
At first it seems that Sun-Jung is simply a psychopath, albeit one who only takes out those who (more or less) deserve it, such as the mistress she sees being unsufferably rude to a food-delivery woman. However, the truth that emerges makes her different from just being Hannibal Lecteress (which makes sense, since female psychopaths are different from their male counterparts), and director Bang brings her own female sensibility to the portrayal. There’s no doubt where the focus of the film or its sympathies lie. However, not until the final reel, after you think everything is over, is everything unfolded: it makes perfect sense, and is as chilling a denouement as you can possibly hope to imagine, with Sun-Jung not the deranged killer she appears to be.
It’s Uhm’s movie as much as Bang’s, with her performance entirely convincing: she doesn’t look like a dedicated, cruel and ruthless killer, which is exactly the best way to be [and reminds me, I’m heading off to watch Dexter in a few minutes]. Her character is absolutely sure that she is doing the right thing, leaving the audience in an interesting predicament: do they go along with this moral certainty, and effectively become an accomplice to her crimes? Usually, in the female vigilante genre, there is some scope for distancing oneself, since the victim is usually the vigilante herself. Here, the perceived moral is more altruistic, and that makes things muddier. I’d love to say more, but can’t, without serious spoilerage, but there hasn’t been a more poignant story of love for a lost child in some time. It seems no-one does revenge quite like the Koreans.
Dir: Bang Eun-jin
Star: Uhm Jung-hwa, Mun Sung-kyun