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South Korea 2002
Directed by
Park Chan-wook
117 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance

Park Chan-wook takes the revenge movie for an outing with this multi-layered, bleakly downbeat story of good intentions gone terribly wrong in what is the first installment of  Park’s “revenge trilogy”, the second being Oldboy (2005) and the third being Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (2006).

Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun), a deaf-mute factory worker, tries to buy a kidney on the black market for his dying sister. None too bright, he not only loses the W100,000 he had saved for his sister’s transplant but his own kidney. When a genuine donor appears, his militant anarchist girlfriend, Yeong-mi (Bae Du-na), decides that they can replace the lost money by kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy industrialist (Song Kang-ho). Their plan goes wrong and Ryu and Yeong-mi become caught in a tragic spiral of retribution.

Park blends typically Asiatic fatalism with the blackest of black humour while retaining a sense of empathy for his main characters. At times he elides considerable chunks of narrative in-fill (for instance the actual kidnapping is,completely omitted) but given that the revenge movie is one of the most highly conventionalized of all film genre this is actually a positive, freeing up Park to work the momentum of the film's escalating violence.

Genre fans, particularly those accustomed to Hollywood fare should be pleased as it will take them out of their comfort zone although the bloody outcome means that this won't be a film for the casual viewer.




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