Maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word. While impeccably shot, acted and paced, not to mention extremely entertaining, “Mr. Vengeance” also contains a good share of teeth gritting torture and violence. This isn’t to say that the film is bad, because it isn’t (in fact, a better word would be excellent), just don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Graeme compared it to Dancer in the Dark, but “more disturbing somehow”.
My Fiancé had decided to program “Mr. Vengeance” after hearing all the positive buzz about Old Boy, also directed by Chan-wook Park. As noted in previous columns we’ve both been very excited about Korean cinema lately, although recently we’d had more disappointments than treasures. This was a treasure. Even Brendan who showed up an hour into the movie agreed. The film was so successful in fact that my Fiancé and I went out the next week and bought two more Park films in Chinatown: “Oldboy” and “JSA (Joint Security Area)” which we’ve decided to program next week in lieu of the “Orca” / “Jaws: The Revenge” double bill my Fiancé had planned on subjecting us to. I for one can’t wait.
“Mr. Vengeance” concerns a deaf mute boy Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin, Save the Green Planet) whose sister is fatally ill and in need of a new kidney. Deciding that waiting for one through the regular channels would take too long since he is ineligible as a donor, Ryu opts instead to buy one on the black market. Lacking the full amount up front he agrees to give the sketchy morphine addicted doctor what money he does have and his own kidney in exchange for one for his sister. Unfortunately, Ryu instead wakes up post surgery in the middle of nowhere, naked and minus a kidney. To make matters worse, Ryu has also just lost his job.
Proving that the universe does indeed have a very sick sense of humor, a donor is found for Ryu’s sister, they just need to pay for the surgery. But Ryu just gave away all his money to the black market organ thieves. Ryu’s girlfriend then comes up with a brilliant plan: kidnap the daughter of the guy who fired him and demand a ransom. After a few darkly comic mishaps they decide instead to kidnap Park Dong-jin’s (Kang-ho Song, Memories of Murder) daughter and that’s when things start to go really wrong…
I won’t give away too much more since a lot of the fun comes in trying to figure out how things could possibly get worse, which they inevitably do. Despite being quite graphic and brutal the film is suffused with pitch-black humor throughout which adds to the watchability. It is also beautifully shot with excellent background sight gags and an attention to the industrial landscape which encompasses much of contemporary South Korea. The other element we noticed was the use of sound, which is ironic considering the main character is a deaf-mute (and the fact that we were watching a gray-market DVD which usually have crap sound mixes). “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” is an extremely well thought out film and not just another piece of violent Asian trash. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Rumblings from the Peanut Gallery: Despite the fact that “2LDK” had two attractive Japanese women beating the s**t out of each other for 70 minutes, the clear winner of the night was “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”. My Fiancé and I in particular were touched by Kang-so Song’s performance which, when contrasted with his turn in “Memories of Murder” proves what a gifted and compelling actor he is. However, I was distracted by a few elements of “2LDK” included the sparkle filled boob pads and “collagen drink”. Graeme was distracted by the weird Asian test market cell phones on display in both films. And we were all distracted by our cat Darby making love to Graeme’s jacket through much of the first film.
Next week: the unofficial Cinemuerte pre-party: “Oldboy” and “JSA”
Mariko McDonald and her fiancé host a weekly film night in their apartment, affectionately known as the Den of Sin. It’s kinda like evil film school. Monthly screening schedules are available at http:filmgurlland.blogspot.com and if you happen to live in the Vancouver, BC area and are interested in catching a screening please drop her a line at filmgurl79@hotmail dot com. Suggestions, hate mail and cute pictures of cats also accepted.
And of course you can always offer up some juicy Back Talk>>>