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

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance

Park Chan-wook gives the revenge movie a wonderful injection of originality with a multi-layered, roller-coaster plot, blackest of black humour, bloody violence and formal flair whilst retaining a sense of empathy for his characters in this story of good intentions gone wrong.

Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun), a deaf-mute, 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 amply demonstrates that he is one of Asian cinema’s leading lights. Mr. Vengeance is just the kind of film that with its moral and aesthetic impurity will displease conventional tastes of whatever stripe but lovers of the off-beat will find more than value for money here.




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