Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance Movie Review
I put off watching "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" for months. Why, I don't know. After all, it has the alluring title of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance." It's by Chan-wook Park, who did the intriguing "Oldboy." And it's a revenge film... and I like revenge films.
Regardless, "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" has finally been viewed by my beautiful eyes and what an impressive film it is. A sad, disturbing and methodically violent film, "Sympathy" follows the acts of Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin), a well-intentioned idiot who, after unsuccessfully selling his kidney on the black market to pay for his sister's much-needed surgery, decides to kidnap the daughter of his rich ex-boss Park Dong-jin (Kang-ho Song) for ransom. With the help of his girlfriend, Ryu almost pulls off the perfect crime, but at the last moment a terrible and accidental tragedy causes everything to go wrong. Suddenly, Ryu is without a sister or a kidney, and Dong-jin is without his daughter, and the two men engage in a spiral of increasingly violent and bloodthirsty quest for vengeance.
"Sympathy" takes a very long time to live up to its title, but the movie works from beginning to end regardless. A film clearly about how even ordinary and well-intentioned people can do absolutely horrible things, Chan-wook takes his time establishing his characters and allowing us to care for people who will inevitably end up getting into a situation where they're going to try to murder each other.
Actually the first in Chan-wook's revenge trilogy, even though "Oldboy" was released first in the United States, "Sympathy" is neither as dark or twisted as its sequel, but as an overall package it feels more finished and well-made. "Oldboy" had an amazing story and some cool, extremely dark twists, but parts seemed unfinished and out-of-place. "Sympathy," from beginning to end, is a solid film where every aspect works perfectly with every other one; it is a cohesive entity that excels on every level.
Of course, it's the last half hour that will really catch your attention, as this is where the movie really gets screwed up. For those who don't like character development whether you are uncultured or unable to accept that movies need characters to make a film interesting, the last half hour is worth the wait. It is dark, and messy, and bloody. Enough said.
"Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" is a chilling and tense thriller that succeeds uniformly in every department. My respect for Chan-wook Park is growing with every passing second, and I'm now eagerly awaiting the final film of his revenge trilogy, "Lady Vengeance," which hits theaters in spring 2006.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.