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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2005)
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Review Date: August 26, 2005
Director: Park Chan-wook
Writer: Lee Jae-sun, Lee Mu-yeong
Producers: Lee Jae-sun, Lim Jin-gyu
Actors:
Song Kang-ho as Park
Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu
Bae Du-na as Cha
Plot:
A deaf guy needs a lot of money in order to buy his sister a kidney transplant. Dumb as a post, the man decides that kidnapping the child of a wealthy businessman is the way to go. Needless to say, things don’t go exactly as planned, as the man, his plan, the child and his sister are thrown for a loop, as are we, the audience, as we struggle to find a spark of entertainment in the film.
Critique:
Meh. Quite disappointing. Not surprisingly, my expectations for Park Chan-wook’s follow-up to my favorite film of 2004, OLDBOY, were pretty high, especially since it was apparently the first of his “vengeance trilogy” flicks (he directed this film before OLDBOY, but it was released after the latter in the States), but even I was taken aback by this film’s lack of overall flair, so-so premise, extremely slow pace, lack of interesting characters and ultimately, very little entertainment value. Gone were the high energy, relentless attitude, engaging characters and twists and turns from OLDBOY, replaced instead with a languid pace featuring a lead character who is both deaf and dumb, and ultimately a need for revenge that barely registered on the “I give a shit” meter, with two characters that I barely cared or knew little about, going after each other. The film’s final half an hour was “alright”, but to be honest with you, by that point, I was pretty tuned out and could care less about the bloodletting going on, all of which wasn’t all that mind-boggling to begin with. The only thing that only semi-worked for this film was its direction, most of which was particular enough to retain my interest, as the picture crawled to its next scene, as well as the very basis of the kidnapping scenario, which was somewhat interesting at first, but which ultimately lost my interest, with its lack of emotional relevance.

And I don’t know if it was because I was a little bored during the film’s introduction or not, but it took me a friggin’ hour just to figure out that the lead guy’s sister and his girlfriend were two different people! That’s right, the film didn’t exactly tie everything together in a bow, and as much as I’m one to enjoy a good puzzle, this one wasn’t all that engaging to begin with, so the confusion of some of its scenes (felt like some scenes were missing at points), just tuned me out even more. Also, at the end of the day, a lead character should be appealing to an audience, and to me, a “dumb” guy really doesn’t do it (unless he’s a funny dumb guy…which works sometimes). The film’s reliance on close-ups of his face to portray his feelings (I guess) also didn’t work for me, as the guy didn’t seem to feel or do much. What a letdown! I still can’t believe the same guy who created OLDBOY was behind this one…wow. With very dialogue, plenty of empty silences and a plot that didn’t reach me emotionally, I’m surprised to see so many positive reviews about this film. One of the guys who ultimately leads one of the greater acts of revenge in the film doesn’t even show up until halfway through, and we barely even know the guy! (so why should I care about him or his trip?) And what was with that cripple dude showing up at the river? Who was he…why was he there?? Weird. Two hours that didn’t entertain much, thrill much or do much of anything…much. Rent or buy OLDBOY instead.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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