English Title: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Running Time: 120 minutes
Korea Rating: 18
Release date in Korea: 29 March 2002

Director: PARK Chan-wook

Cast:SONG Kang-hoasDong-jin
SHIN Ha-kyunasRyu
BAE Doo-naasYoung-mi
IM Ji-eunasRyu's Elder Sister
HAN Bo-baeasYoo-sun
KIM Se-dongasEditor
LEE Dae-yeonasOfficer Cho

[Synopsis] [Review]

Written by: Ryan Law
Date: 7 May 2002

After the success of JOINT SECURITY AREA (a.k.a. JSA, 2000), director PARK Chan-wook took both North Korean soliders SONG Kang-ho and SHIN Ha-kyun into his new drama SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGENACE. While everyone is expecting to be an action pack, it gives us more than a tragic drama on all the three characters arising from a child kidnapping case.

The whole story follows the tragic life of a mute and deaf young man Ryu - being fired by the factory during the days he needs money for his elder sister's kidney transplantation while his own kidney was cheated by people. He never expects the more tragic after taking his girlfriend Young-mi's advice by kidnapping a factory owner Dong-jin's daughter for ransom but the girl was drown and died due to his negligence. SHIN Ha-kyun changed all his images from his past films from a comedian to a dark character. His disability explores his potential in his rich body language while covered by his dialogues in his past films.

The latter half of the story is mainly the step taken by Dong-jin for his vengeance, a divorced husband who has got enough time to take care his daughter, with a small branch on Ryu for his vengeance the underworld group. The vengeance is pretty stylish, probably violent to most people. Hitting a head with volleyball tool, putting bloody method to death with clear cinematography is the way PARK present for the dark side of the vengeance. These are pretty disgusting but fair enough for director to make audiences feel uncomfortable with more sympathy.

The choice of actors are interesting and effective. SONG Kang-ho, who has proved his excellent acting in THE FOUL KING (2000) and JSA, takes a more self-minded and silent character in this film. This better suits his style. He enables to impress audiences without being cried after Dong-jin losing his daughter. During the time when he catches Young-mi at her home, tiding her and putting her in an electric circuit for taking statements, the film still shows us a sense of humor for Dong-jin taking the lunch, which makes the whole situation more complex but cool.

Compared to JSA, this film is more close to director PARK's personal style. Most of the time, almost every character in the film is disabled, physically, mentally or psychologically. First half of the story goes slow with very few dialogues to give audiences to self-interpret the whole set up. This is Korea's usual style but not as usual for an action-drama. PARK manages to take it.

Director PARK has given a large context for both PARK and Ryu taking their vengeances. That is more than a normal action film. He insists not to give us only the vision but the minds behind. Vengeances cannot give back what they lose but they still take it only for their minds to be better. While we know there will not be any good result for vengeances, as being said for the ending of the film, we still pays our sympathy on them. This film is strong in drawing audiences' minds.