Editors Note: Oldboy will represent the Vengeance Trilogy…only fair :).
As long as there are people seeking to avenge the death of their masters and vigilante heroes who have just had enough, revenge will always be there. Sorry to all you American movie goers, but Asian films know their violence. They know their vengenace. They know how to put you on the edge of your seat and then kick your ass to the back of the theater. Below are the top 10 unrelenting, violent, extreme, best of the best Asian revenge films of all time. Without furthur delay let us kick off the list with number 10:
In the battle between men and women, who will triumph? Who knows, but Japanese director Takashi Miike’s film Audition shines a particularly brutal light on this eternal conflict. If you look past the graphic depiction of torture/revenge visited upon the men in this film, you will see that Audition is in many ways a social commentary on the modern-day perils, both real and imagined, that all people potentially encounter when they are paralyzed by their fears of loneliness, rejection and sadness. Admittedly, the reason for never being reviewed on the site is I am not a big fan of this film, but I can’t deny the strong message it conveys.
The story is very topical to modern Japan, taking on the subject of school yard bullying. More than one young child has murdered another in revenge for intolerable abuse, and even more have commited suicide rather than face another day as a constant target. The Neighbor No. 13 imagines a scenario where this revenge is repressed, and allowed to fester across the years, until it boils up to the surface taking on a life of its own. Lots of gore and crazy killings! Some of the scenes were over the top by American standards but I tried to keep it in the Japanese prospective.
I’m sure that others beside myself will be interested in this film because both the theme song and the basic story of a lone woman out for bloody revenge were borrowed for Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Although the story here is basically a good one and parts of the film are beautiful, overall it lacks momentum and suspense. This film is a very beautiful and poetic look at revenge and love. Meiko Kaji incarnates this role of Lady Snowblood. Not only is she convincing, but she seductively compels the viewer to justify her vengeance. If you at all a fan of Japanese action movies, this one will not disappoint.
One Nite in Mongkok is a Hong Kong noir with terrific cinematography and sparse but intense actions. Like `Infernal Affair’ the film proves that Hong Kong film industry is still healthy with talented cast and crew who can give you a good film, both artistic and entertaining. Do not expect sex or intimate scenes in Mongkok, which is already the most populated area in the world. Mafia does it business by hiring killers and prostitutes from mainland China where value of money still differs from one in Hong Kong, and a local police force tries keeping things quite, while annihilating a drug trade by deploying not-so-legal actions itself sometimes. In addition, it is educative for providing a translation of “Hong Kong”.
Intensely brutal, gritty and seedy, director Soi goes for the throat and pulls out all the stops when it comes to (very)graphic violence. No style, almost no fight choreography is shown as the two protagonists pummel, bludgeon, and beat each other with everything but the kitchen sink. They even bite each other as the title suggests. Unrelenting violence is the lure of this film; it seemed to me that Soi has found his true calling in filming very dark, seedy and depressing thrillers. Dog Bite Dog may turn off some viewers; the pessimistic portrayal of humanity and the lack of characters seeking redemption. There are no heroes of any kind here, just revenge seeps through the cracks and delivered to you in the rawest form.
When it comes to hard-boiled revenge thrillers, it doesn’t get much more straight-forward than Takanori Tsujimoto’s Hard Revenge Milly. The story is almost identical to Kill Bill, but with only 45 minutes to work with. This one doesn’t waste any of it’s 45 minutes setting up the story. It has got far too much violent revenge to dish out for that. The bloodthirsty leading lady is no slouch in the action department. There’s sort of a reserved glee in the way Mizuno’s character goes about her business, although you’d never know it from her cold stare. Given the production constraints, Hard Revenge Milly turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining revenge flick.
Hsia Kwan Lee learns different forms of martial arts in order for her to take revenge on the five evils that raped her. In order of revenge, they are: Butterfly Knives, Broadsword, Spearman, Dragon Fist, and Two-Section Boxing master and gang leader Pang Gang. Imagine being raped and then having to kill the guys who did it? Guess that speaks for itself.
This movie has everything to be a fine example of the “women in prison” film genre: stabbings, shootings, rape, lesbian sex, torture (scaldings, beatings, burnings, women hung by ropes from their elbows) and lots and lots of female nudity. Good clean family entertainment. What more could you want? The violence is gratuitous, if not psychedelic, at times, but it all manages to flesh out before Nami manages to finally break out of prison and go on her murderous rampage, taking out the mobsters one-by-one until her final showdown.
The storyline is rather simple – “the Bride” is out for revenge against Bill, a former boss and father of her unborn child, and his followers who turned her wedding into a bloodbath, almost killing her. However, Tarantino’s style and writing along with a superb performance by Uma Thurman elevate this movie to greatness. There is never a dull moment and the viewer cheers for the Bride, despite the fact she’s also an assassin who’s out to kill people. Part of that is due to her reason for revenge, and part is due to Tarantino’s style which actually makes the movie fun in a way. She goes to Japan, gets Hattori Hanzo sword, and is ready to begin the slicing and dicing.
Not only the best revenge film, it is my favorite film of all time. The highlight of Oldboy is an extended fight scene in a crowded hallway, where Dae-Su battles dozens of gangsters with only a hammer and his bare fists as weapons. The entire scene takes place in one long take. The ending will floor you and the performances are all excellent. Chan-wook Park’s vision of revenge in Oldboy often depicts exaggerated violence that is well balanced with story as it is related to the themes of the film. However, a warning to squeamish folks as the film is occasionally brutal and bizarre. This is easily one of the best recommendations I can make. Mostly, because I don’t believe a movie will be made within the next 10 years that will even come close to this film. It’s in a league of its own.
There you have it! These ten movies that, in my opinion, shaped the genre and turned revenge films on its head. If you feel I missed any, or you have your own list, feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section!