Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) – Chan-wook Park

The What Else to Watch list of DK Canada’s The Movie Book continues to serve me well. Following my screening of Oldboy I dug into the list and was very happy to see another of Park’s Vengeance Trilogy in there. I have seen this movie only once before, when it first came to home video, and just like Park’s Oldboy, I remember being wowed by it.

There is a lot going on in this one, and a lot of themes at work, but the crux of the story is balanced between two men who are pushed into a cycle of violence that can only end one way.

Set in Seoul, Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) is a deaf-mute who is trying to find the way, and the money to supply his ailing sister with a much-needed new kidney. When he is fired from his job at Ilshin Electronics, owned by Dong-jin Park (Kang-ho Song), he turns to an illegal venue, paying 10 million won, and giving his own kidney up in return for one for his sister.

It’s a con, and the organ robbers leave him broke, and missing a kidney, which complicates matters when a suitable donor for his sister arrives… they now can’t afford it. But Ryu’s revolutionary girlfriend, Yeong-mi Cha (Doona Bae) has an idea.


If they kidnap Park’s young daughter, and hold her for ransom, with the promise to return her as soon as it is paid, everything will be fine.

Spoilers… nothing is fine.

There is a suicide and an accidental death, and that starts the ball rolling towards an inevitable confrontation as Park and Ryu end up on a collision course, wreaking violence behind them in their search for vengeance.

Despite the story summary above, the film plays more of a drama with shocking outbursts of violence. It’s beautifully shot, though some times uncomfortable to watch. It’s violence is brutal, realistic and in your face, and as the title implies there is definitely sympathy. For both men.

Park on the whole has never been afraid to face troubling and upsetting images and ideas, and always places them into the story so that they may jar the viewer but are unobtrusive, and sometimes vital to the narrative. He may in fact be one of the edgiest directors working today, never shying away from image or taboo, laying it out before the camera’s eye and expecting the viewer to take it in and deal with it in their own way.

That’s the beauty of DK Books’ The Movie Book it can introduce readers and viewers to films from all over the globe, showing us a variety of styles and storytelling, all of it transformed into a flickering image that can delight, entertain, inform and move us.

Pick up a copy today and find a new to you classic to watch tonight!




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