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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

International - HKFlix.com // Unrated // Region 3
List Price: $25.95 [Buy now and save at Hkflix]

Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted December 10, 2004 | E-mail the Author

style="COLOR: darkblue">The Movie




> "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


>> In

style="COLOR: darkblue">Sympathy For Mr. Vengeancestyle="COLOR: black"> (Boksuneun naui
geot),
nobody's getting away unscathed. South Korean director Chan
Woo-Park's follow-up to his 2000 masterpiece Joint Security
Area
(Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA ) is
a tale that demonstrates how the road to damnation is awash with moral
ambiguity, in the midst of which you are simultaneously demonizing the
"hero" while rooting for the "villain"... which is a feat within itself, given
that these two archetypes are consistently in a state of flux.
style="COLOR: darkblue">






The
film begins with the introduction of Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin), a green-coiffed deaf
mute who is caring for his ailing sister, who is in dire need of a kidney
transplant. The donor list is utterly overbooked, and his search for a
compatible donor has ended up as a wash. In desperation, Ryu sells one of his
own kidneys on the black market with the promise of a compatible kidney for his
sister, only to wake up cold, naked, and abandoned in an empty lot with his
kidney gone and his side stitched up. To make matters worse, an accident at the
plant where he works ends up in Ryu getting fired -- the very same week a
compatible kidney is located for his sister. Having lost the money to pay for
the operation, Ryu and his girlfriend Cha Yeong-mi (the stunningly beautiful
Du-na Bae) concoct a plan to kidnap and ransom the young daughter of Park
Don-jin (Kang-ho Song), the boss who fired him from the
plant.


To put things
mildly as possible, things do not quite go as planned. To say any more would be to give away too much about the
story, which is utterly too compelling to spoil here. It is suffice to say that
two characters end up gunning for vengeance, fueled by revenge and utterly
disconnected from any conceivable life or joy whatsoever.
style="COLOR: darkblue">Sympathy For Mr. Vengeancestyle="COLOR: black"> challenges the viewer to examine the situations that have
enveloped both characters and the circumstances that have driven them down this
path, and invites you to discover whether or not you can sympathize with either
of them, both, or neither. Each character has what seem to be legitimate reasons
for their actions... until you experience the violence, bloodletting, and
brutality (both physical and emotional) that these characters submit to both
themselves and others. How far is too far, and how much is too much? The film
doesn't answer these questions, nor does it lionize their heroics or moralize
against their shortcomings.


The
film is unrelentingly brutal. There is enough blood, graphic violence,
and gore to make even the staunchest of man-folk to turn their heads away
in raw squeamishness (One character is tied to a chair and tortured to
death with electric shocks, while the torturer casually watches while
eating lunch. That scene will haunt me for weeks.) It's also exceptionally
directed by Chan Woo-Park, who masterfully balances the warmth and humanity
of the cast against their vengeance-fueled depravity. The three main leads -
Kang-ho Song, Ha-kyun Shin, and Du-na Bae - are so believable in their roles and
so endearing in their performances that the film successfully challenges you to
find a single person behind whom you could morally support. By the end of
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeancestyle="COLOR: black">, you are left with only questions and a perhaps a
lingering sense of futility. This film is dark, brutal, bloody, and
excruciating, yet exquisitely shot and masterfully acted. It's also
one of the best films of the new
millennium.


The
DVD

style="COLOR: black">


Sympathy For Mr. Vengeancestyle="COLOR: black"> is available as a full-blown, two-disc Region 3 Special
Edition.


Video:


style="COLOR: darkblue">Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance is




presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of approximately 2.28:1, and has been
anamorphically-enhanced for your widescreen-viewing acceptance. The overall quality of the image is quite
pleasant, with solid color levels, deep contrasts, reasonable grain structure and smart image
detail. I did notice some compression noise here and
there, but overall the transfer was quite smooth and struck from a very














clean print.













































>style="COLOR: darkblue">>> >Audio:


The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1,
as well as in a DD 2.0 track. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are rather
impressive, with the DTS sounding more layered and dynamic. The film is mostly
quiet and located frontstage, but there is effective and engaging use of the
surrounds and LFE to aggressively open the soundfield when needed. Since the
film is presented in its original Korean-language soundtrack, English subtitles
are provided. However, be prepared for a few blatant grammatical goofs and
spelling errors. These are very few and far in between, but they pop up.
Nonetheless, this is a smart and engaging audio presentation of the
film.










































>style="COLOR: darkblue">>> >Extras:


> >> There
are loads of extras on this two-disc set. Unfortunately, all of them are in
Korean with absolutely no English subtitles whatsoever. Fans who aren't
up-to-speed in understanding Korean are basically SOL. That includes me, your
intrepid reviewer. I can tell you that Disc One contains an
audio commentary track, while there are a plethora of
featurettes on Disc Two. The section entitled "In Process of
Mr. Vengeance" had 30 minutes of featurettes entitled
Dactylology, Star Review, Special Makeup, and
Cameo Role. "My Boksu Story" has more featurettes and
filmographies, but their titles are in Korean. I can barely
write in English, so you'll have to check it out for yourself. Staff
Interview
contains what appear to be... wait for it... style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal">staff interviews, as
well as cast profiles. Finally, the extras are rounded off with
some storyboards, audio clips, photo
galleries
, and
trailers.


For an English-language breakdown of the extra
material on this disc, check out href="http://www.koreanfilm.org/weekly/kfw6.html">Koreanfilm Weekly's review of
the DVD
.


Final
Thoughts:


Sympathy
For Mr. Vengeance
is, simply put, a brilliant film. While a tiny
handful of scenes could have used some tightening, this minor nitpick does not
detract from what is one of the most powerful movies I've seen in a long while.
Between this film, JSA, and Oldboy, st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />w:st="on">Chan-Woo w:st="on">Park has established himself as one
of the most preeminent talents in world cinema. The DVD is a mixed bag... not so
much because it's of mediocre quality, but because it's apparently of amazing
quality - if you speak Korean. At least the film is subtitled in
English, which is truly this disc's selling point. Here's to hoping that a
version of this two-DVD set will become available for English-speaking fans. But
as this is bloody unlikely, grab your multi-region player and give style="COLOR: darkblue">Sympathy For Mr. Vengance your undivided
attention.


C O N T E N T

V I D E O

A U D I O

E X T R A S

R E P L A Y

A D V I C E
Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
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