Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance Is Stunning

As a fan of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, you could imagine that I was pumped when I heard that the Vengeance Trilogy was going to be released online November 24. Unfortunately, there were two problems; the first being that the company distributing it decided to push back the release date to coincide with the Blu-Ray release date and the other being that I hadn’t watched the other films (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance)… meaning that after seeing Oldboy, my expectations for the other two installments were set pretty high. Now since I’m cheap and didn’t feel like shelling out the money to purchase the two other movies, I did the next best thing… Netflix’s Free Instant Watch. So, up first, we have a review for Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

What Happens?

In the full movie, a deaf-mute named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) attempts to take care of his dying sister by working at a factory and by offering to donate his kidney to help his sister. Sadly, he is laid off from his factory job and his blood type doesn’t match his sister’s; thus making him an unsuitable donor. Because of this, Ryu decides to contact a black market organ dealer. The dealer agrees to sell him a suitable kidney in exchange for 10,000,000 Korean won and one of Ryu’s own kidneys. Ryu agrees to the deal but finds out that he was swindled out of his savings and one of his kidneys. A few weeks later, he learns from the doctor that a kidney has been found for his sister and that the operation is going to cost 10,000,000 won… the exact amount the black market dealers took from him. Since Ryu has no more money, he won’t be able to pay for the operation and his sister will most likely die.

In desperate need of money, Ryu and his terrorist girlfriend, Yeong-mi (Bae Doona), come up with a plan to kidnap the daughter of the man who fired him. Almost immediately they come to the conclusion that that would be a bad idea since kidnapping the factory boss’s daughter would instantly make any ex-factory work a suspect. So, because of that, they decide that the next best thing to do is to kidnap a little girl named Yu-sun, who is the daughter of Dong-jin (Song Kang-ho), a friend of the factory boss and CEO.

However Ryu’s sister discovers the plan and decides that she doesn’t want to be a burden anymore and kills herself…
After finding his sister in a bathtub, Ryu takes her body to a riverbed that they used to play at when they were children and covers her body with rocks. Meanwhile, while Ryu is mourning the loss of his sister, the little girl starts running towards him, slips into the water and eventually drowns.

the little girl in the lake

After finding out that his daughter died, Dong-jin takes it upon himself to find the people responsible. With the help of the police, he finds Yeong-mi and interrogates her. Even though she tells him that it was all a mistake and that they didn’t want the girl to die, Dong-jin continues to torture her. Meanwhile, while the torturing is going on, Ryu is off killing the black market organ dealers. Back at the apartment, Yeong-mi tells Dong-jin that her terrorist organization has his picture and if anything were to happen to her, her organization would find him and kill him. Dong-jin isn’t fazed by the threat and proceeds to kill her.

Unpredictable And Interesting

Now, even though I made it appear to be one, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance doesn’t end up being a terrible movie… it isn’t a great as Oldboy, but it is still a pretty good in its own right. The acting is fine, the direction, again, is fine. Park’s direction truly shines in the scenes that make that have an emotional impact on the characters. The brutality used in certain scenes are needed and done well; if Park didn’t go the route that he did in these scenes, the film would have suffered greatly.

The movie’s problems come from the writing, which was handled by Park and a slew of other writers. The story is just crammed with way too many subplots. As indicated above, there are literally four revenge plots. Now, I’m not saying that they are hard to follow, because they aren’t, it’s just that since there are so many revenge plots tossed into the movie, that the pacing gets thrown off. The movie, which runs around two full hours and ten minutes long… but feels like it’s 3 and a half hours long, takes forever just to set everything up and then tries to quickly resolve everything within a half hour. Trying to resolve all the plots in a quick manner ends up lessen the impact that the plots could have had overall. This problem could have easily been solved by cutting back on the revenge plots. Also, there are some scenes that have dark humor elements in them. These scenes aren’t really needed and, even though you may chuckle at them, feel out of place and awkward.

When it comes down to it, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is still a good movie to watch, but, because of the writing, the story goes from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance to Sympathy for 2 guys, a girl and her terrorist organization.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a good film, but its writing causes some major problems that prevent it from being as great as Oldboy is.