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Film: Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance

Both Ha-kyun Shin and Bo-bae Han do excellent jobs with difficult roles.

I’m going to try and get back into the swing of making separate posts for films instead of just relying on the monthly round-ups, and we kick things off with Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. It is not a happy film.

Some general spoilers follow

The first of the three films that comprise the Vengeance Trilogy (which also includes Oldboy and Lady Vengeance), the story centres on Ryu, a deaf mute desperately trying to save the life of his sick sister, who needs an organ transplant to survive but which he can’t afford to pay for. In his failed attempt to acquire a black market kidney he ends up sabotaging the legitimate option, forcing him down an even riskier path to try and raise the money he needs: kidnapping.

Of the four main adult characters – Ryu, his sick sister, his anarchist girlfriend and the father of the girl they kidnap – only the sister is innocent. Ryu’s intentions are good but he does bad things to achieve his goals, girlfriend Yeong-mi is a terrorist and is the one who first proposes the kidnap plot, and Dong-jin is merciless in his quest for vengeance. Tragically, it’s the sister’s actions upon learning about what Ryu is planning that sabotages the ransom plot and leads to all the death that follows (which isn’t to say that the kidnapping would have gone off without a hitch, but it might have worked long enough to save her life). It’s also what turns both Ryu and Dong-jin into vengeance-seekers, both sympathetic but both monstrous.

It’s a very good film but there’s no happy ending to Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, revenge consuming everybody, and it’s not shy with its violence or sparing with its tragedy. Indeed, there’s one scene in particular where it becomes clear what’s going to happen well in advance, leaving the viewer watching on in dread and hoping that they’re wrong, that things will go okay just this once. They do not.

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  1. August 2, 2011 at 15:37

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