Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance – Another Korean Gem

No matter what our well-crafted plans be or how meticulously executed they are, life sometimes takes strange turns in ways completely unanticipated even by the smartest of men.

We call this the law of unintended consequences of our actions.

If Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance (2002), the precursor to Korean director Park Chan-wook’s well-known oldboy and the first film in his Vengeance trilogy, embodies anything it’s the law of unintended consequences.

Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance features South Korean actors Shin Ha-kyun, Song Kang-ho and Bae Doona in key roles.

When a deaf-mute young man Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) desperate to save his ailing sister in urgent need of a kidney transplant decides to donate his own kidney and pay 10-million Wons to a group that promises a compatible kidney for his sister, little does he or we know the strange, horrible consequences that will soon follow with deadly consequences.

Ryu’s money and kidney are soon gone and he’s abandoned naked in a deserted building by the criminal group that’s been preying on people like Ryu.

Compounding Ryu’s misery, the hospital tells him that a compatible kidney is available for his sister and asks him to get there soon with 10-million Won.

What’s the desperate man to do?

His quick-witted girlfriend Cha Yeong-mi, played by the effervescent Bae Doona convinces an initially reluctant Ryu that under the circumstances kidnapping is the right course to take.

Before long, a young girl, daughter of Ryu’s ex-boss’ friend Song Kang-ho (Park Dong-jin) has been lifted and brought to the hovel Ryu and his sister live in.

But kidnapping the young girl and getting the ransom seems the easiest part in retrospect for everything goes awry after that.

Horribly awry.

Vengeance lifts its cloak off the human soul and death becomes a constant visitor, dropping its calling card ever so often in this entertaining Korean film.

Horrific vengeance plotted and carried by three extremely angry parties – Ryu, the kidnapped girl’s father Song Kang-ho and a shadowy terrorist group.

Korean filmmakers have mastered the use of violence and brutality to telling effect and Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance is one more example.

Dark Humor

Violent and tragic as Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance is, it’s not without humor, albeit of a dark variety.

When Ryu’s ailing sister lies writhing and moaning in agony on the floor, four young men living next door imagine that she’s in the throes of a ferocious orgasm and start jerking off furiously to the sound of her painful moans.

Fine Film

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is another engrossing Korean film and director Park Chan-wook deserves kudos for putting out a solid entertainer.

Park Chan-wook deftly uses the silence of Ryu’s deafness to strong, jolting effect on multiple occasions.

Accustomed as we are to shoddy acting from our Bollywood and Kollywood stars who won’t recognize acting even if it bit them on the nose, to watch the talented trio of Shin Ha-kyun, Song Kang-ho and Bae Doona is a revelation and sheer delight.

If you believe the anonymous writers on Wiki, Warner Bros. has acquired the rights to remake this film in English and hired Brian Tucker to write the screenplay.

We’re sufficiently impressed with Park Chan-wook’s work that you may rest assured it won’t be long before we watch the other two movies in the Vengeance trilogy soon. strongly recommends you add Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance to your Netflix queue.

Other Fine Korean Films:
Damn, these Korean Guys Make Great Crime Movies
I Saw the Devil Review – Bloody Violent Korean Gem
Housemaid, Cedar Rapids – Above Average Films

5 Responses to "Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance – Another Korean Gem"

  1. abhi220   August 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Almost all Korean movies that I have seen are violent and based on vengence. I guess in Korea its the same as romance in bollywood.

    Next one in the series is Lady Vengeance and which is the third?

    Here is a couple of trivia.
    The script was finished in 20 hours of non-stop work.
    First film in history to have a sex scene with sign language. Responds:

    1. You write: The script was finished in 20 hours of non-stop work.

    Big Deal.

    Hindi film scripts are finished in just 1-hour and Tamil film scripts taken even lesser time – a mere 10-minutes. 😉

    2. You write: Next one in the series is Lady Vengeance and which is the third?

    No, the next one is oldboy and the last is Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

  2. vjcool   August 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    watched ‘Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance’ when I was not that into world cinema, and it went over my head.

    BTW, watched ‘The Others’, and ‘Devil’s Backbone’ both are listed under horror , but work better as human dramas.

    worth a watch, and better not read the story.

  3. gandhiji   September 5, 2012 at 8:30 am

    You would have probably read the New Yorker article about The Wachowski Brothers The Wachowskis.. I have always known them as “brothers”.. got confused when I saw the name “Lana”.

    Bae Doona is in their next movie. Have you read the book? Responds:

    1. I have read the New Yorker piece but not David Mitchell’s book because I’ve lately become promiscuous.

    The Wachowskis would probably describe my ‘promiscuity’ as a symptom of ‘fragmentation.’

    Cloud Atlas seems interesting based on my reading of the New Yorker piece.

    Given its A-list stars (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry), the movie should attract more attention than the same movie with a lesser known cast.

    The buzz has already started (thanks in part to the flattering New Yorker profile of the movie).

    For the majority of SI readers who will not read the Wachowskis’ piece, here are some interesting lines about the making of Cloud Atlas with the context in parenthesis (by the way, the Wachowskis are the force behind the Matrix trilogy):

    * I chose to change my exteriority to bring it closer into alignment with my interiority. – LarryWachowskis/Lana Wachowskis (explaining his/her transgenered personality and the ‘coming out’ process)

    * So, as nature abhors a vacuum, the system abhors originality. Originality cannot be economically modelled. – Lana (regarding the struggle the Wachowskis had in selling their movie to the profit-driven studios, in this case Warner Bros.)

    * No work of art can ever really testify to the scale of its own impossibility – Lana (explaining the enormous financial and other obstacles that often plague the production of an artistic work)

    2. Obviously, Kamal Hassan is ‘four‘ better than Tom Hanks. 😉

    3. On a personal note, I find Cloud Atlas more intriguing than Matrix (watched one of the films).

    Prima facie, Cloud Atlas seems to have more soul, more drama, more complexity than Matrix.

    4. Like a lot of Korean actors, Bae Doona is a work of art.

    She was impressive even in a short role in No Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance.

    On Aug 29, 2011, the peerless SI wrote while reviewing No Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance: to watch the talented…. Bae Doona is a revelation ….

    In September 2012, New Yorker wrote: Doona Bae … was a revelation.

    ‘Nuff said! 😉

    • gandhiji   September 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Isn’t it tempting to revisit Matrix to see why it enthralls so many of your readers? 😉

      You said: “In September 2012, New Yorker wrote: Doona Bae … was a revelation.”. Sue those Zakaria-esque bastards. Responds:

      Regarding Matrix, I should probably see all three.

      But I have so much on my plate that I don’t know if I can.

      Time allocation and management is the greatest of talents but, alas, I fall woefully short in that arena.

      • Naveen   September 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

        Matrix 1 was very original and interesting.

        “Reloaded” was tedious and boring.

        “Revolutions” was a horrendous and banal crap.

        that is… in my opinion. Responds:

        I find Hollywood films very tedious these days.

        In my not-so-humble opinion, gimmickry has taken over Hollywood and they’ve lost the art of storytelling.

        For foreign films (non-Indian, non-Hollywood), the journey is a lot tougher and therefore they try harder.

        In the coming years, I feel the risk-averse Hollywood (with a few exceptions) will veer more toward remaking successful foreign films.

        But I will likely watch the Matrix trilogy before Cloud Atlas releases.

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