Tuesday, September 9, 2008

SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (Chan-wook Park, 2002, South Korea) This symphony of violence, revenge, and destruction is not without a purpose (I think). Ryu is a deaf-mute who is caring for his ailing sister who needs a kidney transplant ASAP. He works a menial job but has saved up enough money to afford the operation if a kidney were available. Alas, desperate to save his sister, he brokers a deal with some black market criminals to give up his kidney (he already knows his blood is not a match with his sister) and $10,000 which is all the money he has. The criminals cut out his kidney and disappear leaving him for dead. Ryu survives and hatches a plan to kidnap his ex-boss's little girl and demand ransom to pay for his sister's kidney transplant since he was just notified that one was finally available. Things go awry and the child dies forcing her father to track down the killers and seek his own brand of terrible justice. Ryu seeks to balance the scales when he finds the thieves who stole his kidney (and indirectly his sister's life; she killed herself when she discovered the kidnapping plot). As the lives of Ryu, his girlfriend, his ex-boss, and the thieves all converge it is an orgy of blood, violence, and brutality unparalleled in recent American cinema. Vengeance is destructive for the criminal and victim as the line blurs and people lose themselves to violence; one becomes the other. Which character should we feel sympathy for? (B+)