Desperation leads to careless and costly decisions in Chan-Wook Park’s 2002 Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the first of a trilogy. This South Korean movie is artistically filmed with a sad, yet interesting plot. Characters spiral out of control when faced with losing a loved one.
The movie begins with a green-haired Ryu struggling to save his dying sister. She needs a kidney transplant quickly, but there is no donor, and Ryu’s blood type does not match. Blinded by the hopes of helping his sister he falls into a scam. He loses everything that could have made the situation better. The movie is a series of traumatic events, which lead to grieving and revengeful characters.
Each character has a quirkiness about them that allows a believable account on an otherwise farfetched story. Ryu is faced with more problems when he is fired from his factory job. The company executives are downsizing to keep the business. His boss does not think about how his workers are affected by unemployment. Economic status is a major factor in the characters’ choices. Ryu and his sister lived in a cramped apartment with barely enough to get by. In comparison, Ryu’s boss has a lavish home and a Mercedes.
In Ryu’s desperation to save his sister he sacrifices his morality. His girlfriend devises a plan to get the money for a kidney operation. This plan gets out of hand and everyone suffers. Although Ryu makes stupid, hasty choices he has a good heart. Ryu’s actions are not meant to hurt anyone, however life does not offer a helping hand. Ryu’s boss is thrown into the turmoil, causing a mental breakdown and loss of sympathy. Sympathy is a strange emotion that the characters should have for one another, but lack.
The only issue I had with the film was that most Korean text was not translated. The film is subtitled, but they did not show what was written on documents. It was a bit disappointing to be left guessing.
However, this fault did not hurt my understanding of the movie. This was a movie that I did not know I enjoyed until the very end. It left many scenes open to the imagination, but not left unfulfilled. The film is full of symbolism involving life and death. Artistic elements are displayed everywhere, such as camera angles, lighting, and the beautiful set locations.
It is surprising how the story and characters develop in two hours. I was surprised how I felt sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. I love that the film lets you choose your Mr. Vengeance, which was really a wonderful touch to the ending. The male characters developed in such a way that I felt myself rooting for my Mr. Vengeance, rather than just watching the story play out. It is a thought-provoking film that is definitely a must see.
Overall Rating: 4 of 5
(friends who say it was worth their time)