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Deepest Sympathies & Bittersweet Vengeance
Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (DVD)
Member Name: cazkins
Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (DVD)
Advantages: Unique plot, twists that keep it interesting, 'quirky', good quality
Disadvantages: Can be a tad confusing at first
Sympathy For Mr Vengeance is the first instalment of The Vengeance Trilogy, three non-following films directed by Chan-wook Park, who has also worked on other highly-rated thrillers such as Thirst. The following two films are Old Boy and Sympathy For Lady Vengeance. These are Korean films, and although Sympathy For Mr Vengeance was made in 2002, it was released in 2005 on DVD in the UK.
We're introduced to Ryu (Shin Kang-ho) living in Seoul, a deaf young man who lives and looks after his sister whilst she's ill and in need of a kidney transplant. Having just found out he can't donate his own kidney because his blood type is incompatible, Ryu is desperate to save his sister. The waiting list for a transplant doesn't give him much hope so when he comes across an illegal organ trader, he takes the opportunity. The shady dealing sees him make a deal with the traders; they take his kidney, he gives them an additional ten million Won, and they give him a suitable kidney for his sister.
Unfortunately, the whole dealing was a loss. He's been conned, and instead of saving his sisters life, he's left without a kidney and without his money. When he's told there's a kidney available, although it's a miracle, he panics as he doesn't have the money needed to pay for the surgery. Enter Cha Young-mi, his anarchist girlfriend. Together they devise a plan, a crazy plan, to kidnap a young girl, Yossun, and hold her for ransom.
I won't give too much away, but this isn't a happy story. Whether or not things go to plan, and whether Ryu can save his sister, takes on many twists and turns. The meaning behind the name of the film gradually becomes evident as things start to get darker, go wrong and turn violent and vengeful.
Obviously, being Korean, this film is subbed. I didn't mind this, though there were points I wish subs were included when they weren't, such as when someone's reading a letter and we don't have a clue what it says. It made me concentrate more and pay closer attention, not daring to take my eyes away from the screen in case I missed something important.
Although the plot is relatively straight forward when put in plain English, working out who was who and what was happening was quite difficult at first. Faces didn't seem to fit and I lost track of how people got somewhere and what exactly was happening. It just took a little while to get in to my head the details and then I could enjoy understanding the premise and the characters. The key thing to know is that the guy with green hair is Ryu, and he's deaf. I hadn't read the blurb properly before watching this so I didn't have much of an idea what was going on before I got, which didn't help matters.
The premise is interesting because it allowed for a lot of things to happen, things that you wouldn't have thought from the beginning. It keeps you on your toes, guessing and wondering what's going to happen next. It's done in such a way as that it's dramatic and poignant, yet understated because it's done quite realistically, enough so to make it emotive. It's like a 'series of unfortunate events', and the snowball effect draws you in until the very end.
There were aspects of this film that were weird and 'quirky', which I had expected from such a Korean flick of this genre. I actually really liked these bits because they made me chuckle and it sparked my curiosity. The things that were bizarre helped to shake things up a little, change the atmosphere and the keep the film feeling original. If you've seen this film then you probably know what I'm talking about.
The acting is more difficult to comment on being a foreign film, perhaps because of relying on subs and not recognising any actors or having a frame of reference for the setting. Having said that, I definitely felt myself becoming very empathic for the characters, which I think is a sign of a good film. I actually felt very sad by the end of it, as did my boyfriend who was watching it with me and gave frequent 'awww' sounds throughout.
Sympathy For Mr Vengeance is definitely one I would recommend for fans of 'alternative', foreign subbed or general horror/thriller flicks. It's good quality with a strong direction and premise, being an original addition I definitely want to keep in my DVD collection. It doesn't matter if you haven't seen the other Vengeance Trilogy films because they're not exactly 'related' in terms of plot/characters either. Whilst it may be a little difficult to grasp at first, it packs a punch with emotion and violence, enveloping you in to the film until the very end.
DVD released 2005, rated Certificate 18
Selling on Amazon for £4.99
Summary: My second favourite in the Vengeance Trilogy - worth a watch!