Lady Vengeance (or Sympathy For Lady Vengeance as it is still semi-officially called) is the third film in Chan-Wook Park’s vengeance trilogy. The films have little to do with each other, except the theme, and by the time I got to the end of the first hour of Lady Vengeance, I thought Park had worn the topic out. Like Oldboy, Lady Vengeance features a protagonist who is released after a period of captivity, ready for her revenge on the man who done her wrong. Much like Oldboy the film has shots of dark humour, indeed perhaps too much humour, and too much cinematic flim-flam to make you care.

All goes by the wayside about an hour in when our heroine catches up with her nemesis, and suddenly the film dramatically changes. Not in as much as humanitarian grey areas kick in, the story is still very black and white. But suddenly her drive for vengeance is opened out, what was done to her is not as bad as what was done to others and she offers them vengeance too. It is, on the whole taken, but the question the film ponders (unspokenly) is to what degree is there any catharsis, and if revenge is a dish best served cold, how cold should you let it get?

This final twist makes Lady Vengeance a much better film than it seems from the start, and I preferred it to Oldboy (which was relentlessly nasty). Sympathy For Mr Vengeance is still my favourite of the three, but hey, we all like the film we discovered. Much like we all expect to dislike the film everyone tells us is great. Munich is that film – another film preoccupied with vengence.

Like Lady Vengeance, Munich also posits the real use of vengeance as catharsis. In this case the Israeli state killing organisers of the Munich bombing in secret seems to lack the visibility that catharsis requires. But then this is State vengeance, something which as the film rolls on you realise is a bit of a contradiction. The urge for revenge is a personal one: and so this become the revenge of key Mossad members, the Israeli government, but not of the people.

Speilberg delivers an overtly political film without the politics. The hows and the whys are often sidestepped, for good reason. This is just people killing each other for questionless good reason. As soon as it becomes personal, it also becomes impossible. It is also a film about the world of vengeance, of terrorism, of secret operations. Despite being far too long (and again there is a clear place to end a good half hour before it does), Munich impressively fills in the grey areas that Lady Vengeance and most other films fail to note. Perhaps this might not be the case if Eric Bana’s team of assassins were actually any good at it: at times it is like watching the Keystone Mossad. We are not used to seeing action films where the protagonists fail as much as they succeed (I am getting used to seeing Speilberg films though where he fails as much as he succeeds – and the length and digressions here almost lose the plot).

Vengeance is not sweet, seems to be the message of both of these films. Both are flawed in different ways, but both are clear about what they stand for, and do so without beating the viewer over the head with it. Perhaps the best thing about this vengeance duo is they credit their audience with intelligence.