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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.05%
Average: 2.63%
Pretty Bad: 2.63%
Total Crap: 21.05%

3 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
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by EricDSnider

"Revenge is a dish best served bloody and with stylish camerawork."
4 stars

There are actually two men seeking revenge in "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," though I guess "Sympathy for Mssrs. Vengeance" would have been a strange title. Ah -- or perhaps we are meant to sympathize with one vengeance-seeker and not the other. So many mysteries, and we haven't even gotten to the actual movie yet!

Chan-wook Park's 2002 film is the first in his Revenge Trilogy, followed by "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance," and while "Oldboy" is a better and more fully realized film, you can see Park's sensibilities emerging in "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance."

He introduces a deaf and mute young man named Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) whose sister (Ji-Eun Lim) is desperately in need of a kidney transplant. An effort to obtain one on the black market is botched, leading Ryu and his anarchist girlfriend Cha (Du-na Bae) to hatch a truly hare-brained scheme: kidnap a businessman's daughter and use the ransom money to buy an organ.

The businessman, Park Dong-jin (Kang-ho Song), becomes the focus of the film after the kidnapping, too, is mishandled. He wants revenge against the man who kidnapped his daughter, while the kidnapper wants revenge against the black-market organ dealers. Both men are surprisingly adept at getting what they want, using methods that are somewhere between Tarantino and Abu Ghraib. But vengeance, as the film reminds us in what must amount to its "point" or "message," only inspires more vengeance.

Park (who co-wrote the film with Jae-sun Lee, Mu-yeong Lee and Yong-jong Lee) uses a placid, calm visual style to belie the film's frequent violence. The camera rarely moves, and he favors long, unbroken takes, though often from a canted angle or a peculiar vantage point, making the whole thing feel slightly surreal and dreamlike.

Alfred Hitchcock said he liked to shoot his murders like loves scenes and his love scenes like murders. Park shoots his loves scenes like murders, and his murders like murders, and everything else like murders. In "Oldboy," he shoots a dinner-eating scene like a murder. Yet he does it all so casually, with enviable coolness and visual flair.

He also does it, at least in this film, without much purpose, except insofar as well-filmed violence is its own reward. He clearly has talent, and he's clearly very confident in his talent (though not to the point of being a showoff, thank goodness). But our sympathy for these characters is mostly generic. We feel bad for their respective losses, but we aren't inside their heads enough, identifying with them as people, to condone their choices. It's more of a freak show -- although freak shows can be fun, too.

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originally posted: 06/08/06 17:18:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/19/16 kk. blunt i've seen this 5x already, it is still a great film 5 stars
9/19/14 aa fuck! 5 stars
10/21/12 Ryan Haskell Excellent if imperfect film. 4 stars
4/09/11 moose rapper Hard-edged crime drama at it's best 5 stars
3/03/11 chris c Brutal movie with a big gut punch in the last scene 4 stars
1/13/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Like a modern Shakespeare drama 5 stars
8/11/09 menten This is a real life. 5 stars
1/20/09 Fuji A great film by a great director 5 stars
10/02/08 edo amazing movie, very political, OLD BOY it's much more comercial. 5 stars
10/11/06 malcolm confusing, random, gratuitous 3 stars
8/22/06 K.Sear Fantastic flick. It has an immediacy that "Oldboy" lacks. 5 stars
4/22/06 Reklc Twist, twist, death vengeance death, sorrow, violence = masterpiece! 5 stars
1/25/06 Runaway Without a doubt, Park Chan-Wook's masterwork. His best film. 5 stars
1/23/06 Noodle A brilliant masterpiece...I was floored by this film. 5 stars
1/21/06 Flyboy A slice of Chanwood genius. I agree that it's superior to 5 stars
1/20/06 ChappyX You people are nuts, this was a MASTERPIECE. OLDBOY was the one that SUCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/30/05 Bean I enjoyed OldBoy. But this was a bore. 2 stars
9/06/05 JubJub I have no sympathy for YOU!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
8/26/05 Mr Vengeance sdwfeg32rf 5 stars
8/19/05 JiJi I'll never understand what people see in Chan-wook Park 1 stars
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  19-Aug-2005 (R)
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010



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