Every action has a reaction…
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Directed By: Chan-wook Park (Oldboy)
Ah yes, Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy. Did you know it recently got an 8 disc box-set release? I sure do because I won the set from I like Horror Movies a week or so ago. As you all know the classic trilogy of vengeance feature the classics Oldboy and Lady Vengeance but it started off in 2002 with a film I hadn’t gotten the chance to see until now, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. What this film brings is a very well shot, thoughtful yet very violent piece of film that somehow manages to make a point, play with emotions, and even add in some odd humor along the way. To put it simple, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is near perfect and a hands down classic.
The def (and apparently dumb) Ryu is extremely close to his sister. Unfortunately she needs a kidney and Ryu isn’t a match. When his original idea leaves Ryu without part of his own kidney and the money he needed for his sister’s operation, Ryu and his girlfriend devise a plan to kidnap his former boss’ daughter. Now they don’t have the intent to actually hurt the girl, they just really need the money. What follows sets off a chain of events that leaves trails of blood at every turn with the idea of seeking vengeance being the motivation behind it all. They say two wrongs don’t make a right, that an eye for an eye leaves the world blind, and so and so forth. In this film however, you get the idea that that may very well be true, as each action from our characters leads to just as horrible reactions as lines of good and bad get blurred.
If you head into Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance looking for a clear cut good guy and bad guy, you will find yourself in a bit of a pickle. Sure you see bad guys, but our main two characters are not actually villains, they just have found themselves in a bit of a jam. Ryu does what he does for his sister. As dumb as each idea he has is, he never really meant to hurt anyone, he was just doing all he could given the cards he’s dealt. Sure, he plays them wrong and it comes back to bite him on the ass, but it wasn’t his intent. Then when Park comes into play he’s not a man with bad intentions either, he’s out for vengeance of his own and anyone in his situation would probably feel the need to do the same. So as the title states, you feel sympathy for everyone involved at one point or another regardless of what they did.
One thing about each film in this Vengeance Trilogy, Chan-wook Park is very sharp behind the camera and knows how to pull emotions off the screen and insert them into the viewer. You care about his characters in ways you don’t usually care for characters, and it’s even more so here than usual. Part of this could probably be due to the fact that the acting here is great. When you watch a film that’s in another language and yet you still feel the emotion, that’s good acting. And outside Oldboy, this probably has some of the best acting I’ve ever seen in a film spoken in another language other than my own.
While the film is a rather long one, you never get bored, you never check your watch. The story unfolds in a very well written and creative way that outside the ending doesn’t really have a flaw. I say this about the ending because I felt is all comes together a little too well at the end and there’s a few question about just how that happens that never comes to light. None the less, it’s near perfect on all fronts right down to the few moments of glorious gore we get. There’s a lot of sympathetic characters in this film, there’s a lot of things you’ll feel very bad in regards to them for, and I think by the time the films wraps in tragic fashion the film will have made it’s point, and you will understand that point. A true classic.
Based off his Vengeance Trilogy, Chan-wook Park, may very well be the next best thing I’ve found to my favorite director, Quentin Tarantino. If you have yet to see all three films in this set then by all means go out and get the new box-set! Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and the one that started it, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, are all worth owning.
The Rating (8/10)