asian horror

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

01

The first installment in Park Chan-wook’s fantastic Vengeance Trilogy, this film might not be the most exciting one of the three, but it certainly does not disappoint.  Centering around a kidnapping plot gone bad, what’s interesting about this particular film is that it begins by following the amateur kidnappers, later switching to the father of the girl they snatched.  It gives you a sense of sympathy indeed for all parties involved, blurring the lines between what we think of as the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”  An interesting tale from a very talented director, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a beautifully shot, moderately violent start to an outstanding series of films.

 

Sweaty’s Stats

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Nudity

Only one scene, but it is fully nude animalistic fucking, so y’know, there’s that.

Gore

A good amount of blood towards the end.  Some of the wounds will make you squirm a bit.

Scare Factor

Low, but it is shockingly violent in parts.

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Summary

We begin the film with a young green haired deaf-mute man named Ryu, working the grind at a factory in order to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant.  Desperate to save her, he enlists the help of some back-alley black market organ harvesters.  In a shocking twist, the criminals turn out to be not so trustworthy, and Ryu ends up with his bank account drained and his own kidney missing.

02

And because slicing out his organs wasn’t “fuck you” enough, they also take his clothes.

A call from the doctor reveals worse news; a donor has been found, but because South Korea’s health care system is apparently on par with the United States, Ryu no longer has the money to pay for the surgery.  He gets laid off from work shortly after and with that, we have exactly the desperate type of situation that leads a good men into a life of crime.  His Communist revolutionary girlfriend (whose anti-American views are evidenced even visually throughout the film with such brands as T.G.I.Friday’s and Baskin Robbins) comes up with the idea to kidnap the little girl of a rich business owner and close associate of Ryu’s former boss.  With no intention of harming the girl, they instead play with her while her father delivers the amount requested.  Ryu gets the cash and returns home, triumphant until he discovers a note from his sister indicating that she’s found out about the plot. Crippled with guilt over being a burden to him, she’s already bled out by the time he finds her.

Devastated, Ryu takes her body to the river where they used to play as children, intending to bury her and return the girl to her father.  As he’s burying his sister, tragedy strikes again as the little girl attempts to swim across to him.  Unable to hear her cries for help, Ryu finds her little body floating in the river shortly after.

03

“I’m fucked.”

It’s here that we begin to follow the grieving father, Park Dong-jin, as he slowly becomes a one-man unstoppable force hell-bent on revenge.  With the help of the police, Dong-jin eventually tracks his quarry down, only to find Ryu has stepped out.  That doesn’t stop him from having a little fun with his Commie girlfriend though…

04

Hint: not the latest in Korean fashion accessories.

Meanwhile, Ryu has decided he’s got some pent-up rage to unleash as well, and so he goes after the thugs that harvested his giblets and paints the room with their insides.  With his bloodlust satisfied, he returns home to find his girlfriend being wheeled out to the coroner’s van and shifts his attention to Dong-jin.  Now on the hunt for each other, the two men do some cat-and-mouse before diving into the final, bloody confrontation.


Final Thoughts

While these films might not technically classify as horror, it would be downright unprofessional of us not to include some of the finest things to come out of Korea since barbecue and Rain.

05

Still 1000x less douchey than that Canadian kid we got stuck with.

However, these movies are not necessarily for the casual film goer, as they do feature scenes of intense, graphic violence.  Chan-wook is not one to shy away from blood, and the effects are gruesomely realistic.  In this particular installment, there isn’t a lot of action and the violent bits don’t happen until the latter half of the movie, but never did I feel bored while watching.  That’s due in part to the superb cinematography and camerawork.  Gorgeous shots coupled with a haunting, somewhat jarring soundtrack make for an eerie atmosphere throughout the film.

Fascinating characters are another staple of Chan-wook’s work and this one is no exception.  Even bit players (the awkwardly-motioned mentally handicapped man, the couch man who can’t keep his pants up) add color and flavor to a talented cast.  The story paces well and the look into Korea’s classism is an interesting bit of social commentary to boot.  Overall, a very enjoyable, thoughtful and beautifully artistic film.

Tune back in here next Sunday for part two, the infamous Oldboy.

06

Also this happened and I must find this thing and own it immediately.

 

Score: 8/10, a nice, easy start to a badass trilogy

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IMDB for this sucka

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