Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance 2002Original Title: Boksuneun naui geot

Starring: Kang-ho Song, Ha-kyun Shin, Doona Bae

Directed By: Chan-wook Park

Written By: Jae-sun Lee, Jong-yong Lee, Mu-yeong Lee, Chan-wook Park

Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 9 min

Two cents:

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the first film in the ‘Vengeance Trilogy’, from director Chan-wook Park. They’re not a trilogy of connected stories however, but three films set around the theme of vengeance.

I found Mr. Vengeance a little confusing to be honest. According to the blurb, this film was about a young deaf kid called Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin), who is ripped off by black market organ dealers. This is after he sells them his own kidney to pay for another compatible kidney for his struggling sick sister. This is only part of the story however, and not really even the main focus of the film. After being ripped off, Ryu and his girlfriend Cha Yeong-mi (Doona Bae), concoct a plan to kidnap his ex-bosses daughter and demand a ransom to cover the cost of his sisters operation.

What initially confused me was the part where he was supposedly ripped off. Because it wasn’t really clear that he was. The plan to kidnap his ex-bosses daughter also seemed way out of character for Ryu. How they pull off the kidnapping is glossed over, and why the young girl doesn’t realize she’s been held against her will is never really clear either. Also, the ‘whys’ and ‘whens’ regarding Ryu’s employment situation aren’t fully revealed either. One minute he works a dead-end factory job. The next he doesn’t.

Not that these details were totally integral to the story, and certainly after some research I got the answers I was looking for. There were some key points however, that were important to understand on first viewing. Vengeance’s muddled story telling during the first half made it harder for me to follow, and that affected my enjoyment of the film.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but let’s just say tragedy with the kidnapped girl sparks a violent reaction from the father, Park Dong-jin (Kang-ho Song). Violence then begets violence as all the players in this bloody tragic game make their moves to satisfy their own need for retribution. Some of the motivations behind these moves however, felt contrived to me.

It does however, get better as it moves along, and there’s plenty of cool visual style in Chan-wook Park direction. He’s a director it seems that likes to play with your expectations. For example, four young boys masturbating to what they perceive are the sounds of a couple in the apartment next to them having sex. Turn out to be Ryu’s sister writhing and moaning in pain on the floor. Chan-wook Park is also not afraid of a little blood (well, a lot of blood), and many of the films more violent moments are very graphic.

Movie Prep:

My guess is most people are going to find this film after watching Oldboy. The second and most successful/popular film in the vengeance trilogy. If you come to this film expecting more of the same, you’ll be disappointed.  Expect a slower pace, but a reasonably satisfying and bloody conclusion to this story. This movie is in Korean, so expect subtitles.

Best Format:

Very interesting visually. A theater screening would be ideal. At home a HD showing is recommended.

Best moment for me:

I mentioned it earlier. The four boys masturbating to what they perceive are the sounds of love-making in the apartment next to theirs. That couldn’t be further from the miserable truth. The shot is nicely put together, and is both funny and tragic at the same time.

References: IMDB

Linked to:

Oldboy (2003)
Lady Vengeance (2005)


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