Park Chan-wook’s most complicated masterpiece whose black comedy gives darker guilty pleasure and the tragedy cuts so deep.
“The bad image kidnappers get is because of kids getting killed. But we’re different.”
Orphaned Ryu (Shin Ha-gyun)—deaf and mute since born—lives to support his ill sister (Im Ji-eun) who desperately needs kidney transplant. Ryu knows the only way to save his sister immediately is bypassing the waiting-list system plotted by the state; and that means money. This poor man doesn’t have much. Sadly, he consecutively loses his job and gets deceived by a black market organ dealer—he is left for dead, losing his life-savings and one of his kidney.
Desperately need money, Yeongmi (Donna Bae), Ryu’s anarchist girlfriend fanning Ryu to kidnap his former boss’ little daughter, Yu-sun (Han Bo-bae). Unfortunately, the kidnapping turns sour—leaving Ryu in trouble as his former boss, Park Dong-jin (Song Kang-ho) also wants his vengeance upon Ryu. Tangled in the midst of these complex spider webs, those sinister men is driven by their own moral thirst for justice. The question is, will there be justice in vengeance?
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is basically the first film to open Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy. However, I watched it sometime following the so-called Oldboy (2003), but I can see it very obviously that the embryo of what we have in Oldboy is seen. Mr. Vengeance is evidently a sour black comedy with splash of tragedy here and there as well as the strongest pawn in the trilogy that goes weaker after reaching its peak.
For every calamity struck every ill-fated one in Mr. Vengeance, there lies an irony that serves with grim laughs. One simple example, how Ryu’s apartment neighbors jerk off listening to Ryu’s sister’s grievous wail every night considering it a lustful moaning; meanwhile, Ryu doesn’t get annoyed at all since he is terribly a deaf. This black comedy style vaguely differentiates Mr. Vengeance to Park Chan-wook’s previous work JSA, but it this style gives light to his following films including the audacious Oldboy and quirky Thirst. Although, it leaves no traces of Chan-wook’s current stylistic visuals and transition, Mr. Vengeance has already bore the detail, originality, and brutal action constructed in Mr. Chan-wook’s brilliant mind.
The pivot of Mr. Vengeance is not merely in the titular “vengeance” as it might be, but rather in the morally corrupted society and how they relates to each other. All characters are bound to their own motives of retaliation, even the “surprising” characters that appear on nearly end of the film; all their motives are different and Mr. Chan-wook knows the best way to display their craving for vengeance. What makes all the characters same is, obviously, the morally-corrupted society. The whole film might depict a chain reaction of failure attempts, the root of those failures basically is the society. How Ryu gets fired from his job following downfall of the factory’s financial might show one, but how Ryu fails to save his sister indicates the lame bureaucracy towards the poor. The story goes so complex, but Chan-wook’s detailed directing and pacing help us to get on the board through the most hectic period in the patio.
At long last, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance might be Park Chan-wook’s film with the lamest visual style, yet, its originality finds ways for Oldboy and Lady Vengeance to pass. Yet, for me, it’s Park Chan-wook’s most complicated masterpiece whose black comedy gives darker guilty pleasure and the tragedy cuts so deep.
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance
복수는 나의 것 a.k.a Boksuneun naui geot
Drama, Thriller, Crime Running Time: 129 mins Directed by: Park Chan-wook Written by: Park Chan-wook, Lee Jae-sun, Lee Jong-yong, Lee Mu-yong Starred by: Shin Ha-kyun, Song Kang-ho, Doona Bae, Im Ji-eun, Han Bo-bae