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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, unrepentantly downbeat story of good intentions gone terribly wrong.

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.

This is the first installment in Park’s “revenge trilogy”, the second being Oldboy (2005) and the third being Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (2006). Ably abetted by cinematographer Kim Byung-il, Park invests the genre tropes with romantic fatalism, social commentary and blackest of black humour whilst retaining a sense of empathy for his main characters.

At times Park elides considerable chunks of narrative in-fill (for instance the actual kidnapping is,completely omitted) whilst the escalating violence becomes quite grisly, meaning that this won't be a film for the casual viewer. Genre fans,. particularly those accustomed to Hollywood fare. however, should find it rewardingly original. .

 

 

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