Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance

I've been saying that I'm going to review Sympathy for Mr Vengeance forever, and now that I've actually come to do it, I don't know where to start.

This 2002 film is the first part of the Vengeance Trilogy by South Korean director Park Chan-wook, the subsequent parts being Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. That said, to the best of my knowledge they are a trilogy in the theme of vengeance only and are not linked by story.

The synopsis: At this point I must come clean and say I've lifted this from elsewhere on the Web. The reason I've done this is that I fell asleep a couple of times in the first half of the movie. "A deaf mute worker saves all his money for his sister who requires a kidney transplant. He has the wrong blood type to be able to donate one of his kidneys, so he arranges a trade with a group of organ dealers: one of his kidneys, and 10 million Won, in return for their finding a kidney for his sister. They renege, but a legitimate kidney becomes available for transplant. Unfortunately, he no longer has the 10 million Won required for the hospital to perform the operation. He and his girlfriend, a terrorist seeking to change how the poor are treated in Korea, kidnap his former boss's daughter. But events spiral quickly out of control..."

The review: Now, let me say this: I don't often fall asleep in movies. And when I do it's often indicative of my tiredness rather than the quality of the film. I did manage to kick myself back into shape for the second half, and I did go back later to see what I'd missed, so I'm pretty sure I've now seen it all, albeit not necessarily in the right order! That means I still feel perfectly justified in having an opinion.

This film was not, ultimately, as interesting as Oldboy, especially in the early scenes. Where Oldboy went straight for action from the get-go, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance first set up an elaborate plot. It's not a confusing plot, just perhaps a tad unnecessarily long in the telling. There are some great scenes, though, even in this first half, especially the point where you know it's all going to go tits-up. Then, once the action kicks in, it's pretty much mayhem all the way, and no one is safe. As you might expect, it's pretty grisly and violent in places, but there is also a good amount of dark humour spattered throughout. It was certainly entertaining.

The numbers: Pending a second viewing, and given that it didn't prevent me from falling asleep in the first half, I'm going to give this 58 out of 100. (As a point of reference, I would probably rate Oldboy at around low to mid-70s.)