Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Dir: Chan-wook Park, 2002. Starring: Kang-ho Song, Ha-kyun Shin, Doona Bae. Asian Cinema.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is perhaps one of the best anti-hero films I have ever seen, based on concept alone. Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy is unlike most others because the plot, actors, and characters are all in no way linked or the same, but each film circulates around revenge. Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) is a young deaf-mute who lives with his sister in a seedy apartment complex. His ambition was formerly focused on art school until his sister fell ill and needed a kidney transplant. He quit school and began working as a manual laborer in a factory in order to save up for her operation. Unable to give her one of his own kidneys because their blood types don't match, Ryu takes a chance and, using all the money that he has saved, tries to purchase a kidney from an illegal organ supply group which offers to give him the kidney he needs in exchange for one of his and 10 million won. But after waking up from the operation, he finds that the group has split with his clothes, money, and kidney.

Disheartened and furious about yet another streak of bad luck in his life, he vows to kill the people who wronged him. While visiting the medial center he frequents to find a donor, he receives the great news that they found a proper donor, which is hard to do in such a sort amount of time. The only problem is that Ryu has just been fired from his job and the operation costs 10 million won. Together, he and his girlfriend Cha-Yeong-mi (Doona Bae) decide to kill two birds with one stone by seeking vengeance on the illegal group and kidnapping his former employer's daughter for ransom in order to pay for his sister's operation.

During the process of kidnapping the small child and receiving the ransom, everything goes according to plan until his sister discovers what he is doing to pay for her treatment. One thing leads to another and the young girl dies in a tragic accident after they are paid the money. Once her body is discovered, Ryu's former boss, Park Dong-jin (Kang-ho Song), also vows himself to kill those who are responsible, exercising torture and the craft of a hunter until he finds them.

Looking deeper into the film, I find that mentioning how stunning it was visually is useless because that's a constant in this director's films, but I'll blab about it anyway. I was excited and quite satisfied with the use of color throughout the movie. I'm not sure if Chan-wook Park works with the same cinematographer and design groups with his films, but they are all visually sensational across the board.

But like I stated before, the complete lack of a true and heroic protagonist is what did it for me the most. The editing was amazing in the sense that it helped express the similarities of these two men and make them one in the same. Different financial status, but both of them experienced family hardships and experienced equal and balanced amounts of loss throughout the movie. I especially enjoyed shots where one man was doing something, like cracking his neck, and the shot was juxtaposed with the other doing the same thing. I like it when you aren't forced to choose sides because there are no sides to choose from, and no heroes to glorify. Like the game of life in general, there really are no winners who come out clean…especially in terms of revenge.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jun 21, 2010 4:02pm
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