Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Park Chan-wook

8/10 (length; intrusive ending voiceover)

This film is fascinating, and dare-I-say very unique. It is the first part of Park’s “Vengeance” trilogy, succeeded by the more famous “Oldboy” and “Lady Vengeance.” I haven’t seen the third part but “Sympathy” was much better than it’s more famous sibling.

Loosely explained, this is the story of a deaf mute who develops a plan with his anarchist girlfriend to kidnap a rich guy´s daughter in order to get his dying sister a new kidney. Needless to say, it does not end well, and I don’t think it’s giving too much away to tell you that everyone dies in the end, except for the strange retarded guy at the lake.

The word stylish applies very appropriately to all aspects of the movie. Everything about it is slick. While viewing you have the undoubtable feeling that you are in the sure hands of a professional. But I’m not talking about quick MTV flashcuts and uber-Guy-Ritchie-ish snazzy soundtrack synching “slick.” On the contrary, this film has a certain level of elegance to it. It’s almost classy, despite being ridiculously violent at times. The style comes from the cinematography and art direction, which frames almost every single shot like a particularly beautiful photograph, or like a cell from a comic book.

The strength of this film (ironically enough in a super-bloody film) is the moral questions it raises about revenge. Both of the main characters — the deaf-mute avenging his sister/girlfriend and the father avenging his daughter — come across as good guys at heart, and you as the viewer are pulling for them even though they both commit reprehensible deeds. It is an interesting place to find yourself as a viewer, and I give credit to the actors at least as much as the original script. I love movies that challenge you or make you uncomfortable while telling a good story.

The pacing of the film is oddly slow, which did not bother me on the first viewing. The dialogue is sparse, with the director instead relying upon stark visual moments. On the second viewing, however, it seemed long. My only other complaint would be the voiceover at the very end that explained everything that had happened, when it was already quite obvious. It was just a little too much. That´s my general critique of the film, just a little too much.

But then again there was that awesome scene where he jams a scalpel into a guy´s carotid. I couldn’t resist letting out a big “WHOA-HOA!” the first time I saw it. Yes, that did really just happen.

17 March 2010

Other Reviews for “Sympathy”


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