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Boksuneun naui geot (2002)

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Directed by:

Park Chan-Wook

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 121 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: Korea (South)

You know those “oops” moments we all have from time to time? Like when you’re carrying a tray loaded with mugs of coffee, and you can’t remember which ones you put sugar in? Or when a friend asks you to look after his goldfish while he’s away on his holi-bobs, and you forget to feed them on a couple of occasions? Well Ryu, the deaf-mute played by Ha-kyun Shin, has a moment a bit like that in ‘Sympathy for Mr Vengeance’ when he abducts his ex-boss’ daughter in order to raise money for his sister’s kidney transplant operation, and accidentally fails to keep her alive. If that’s not an “oops”, I don’t know what is.

What follows is one of the coldest, grimmest quests for revenge you’re likely to see, as scorned daddykins Park Dong-jin (Kang-ho Song) goes on the rampage in an attempt to track down our button-lipped kidnapper and make him pay for his crimes. Ryu has on his side a terrorist girlfriend (Bo-bae Han) and the ability to pull a few hyper-violent moves of his own – but will it be enough to avoid a right good kicking from the less-than-chuffed father on his tail?

Director Chan-wook Park, who went on to receive plaudits a-plenty for the following year’s ‘Oldboy’, has a realistic, down-to-earth style of story-telling which side-swerves extravagant stylistics and over-egged effects in favour of showing us things as they are. It’s a welcome approach to film-making, particularly in this case where what could have been a generic melodramatic pseudo-thriller turns into a gritty, believable edge-of-the-seat drama.

Viewers should be warned that things get increasingly bloody and gruesome as the tale progresses, and by the time the end credits are rolling the film is a million miles away from its almost dark comic beginnings. Some of the scenes add little to either the atmosphere or the narrative, and as a result it could do with cutting them out and making itself a more compact, polished final product in the process. But, by effectively ending the kidnap plot by the halfway mark, ‘Sympathy for Mr Vengeance’ leaves itself with a full hour to keep us guessing as to where the story’s going to go next. The tone is a little inconsistent as a result, but for the most part it’s a formula that works.

It's Got: Water – and it only needs to be as deep as a puddle in order to drown, y’know!

It Needs: Swimming lessons. Although, having said that, they probably wouldn’t be much use in a puddle situation anyway.

DVD Extras This shiny new 2-disc Collector’s Edition, from Tartan Metro’s ‘Asia Extreme’ branch, contains a director’s commentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, Chan-wook Park’s previously-unseen short film ‘The Judge’, interview footage, filmographies, film notes by Jamie Russell and an original trailer. The film itself is in Korean with subtitles, although there’s not actually all that much dialogue to read (the main character being a deaf-mute might have something to do with that). Edition reviewed: Collector’s Edition, from Tartan Metro’s ‘Asia Extreme’ DVD Extras Rating: 9/10

Alternatives:

Oldboy

Summary

A hard-edged, bloody-nosed drama which teaches us never to come between a man and his daughter – especially if you’re a clumsy kidnapper.

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