“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” – Jason DeMoe

The more Asian cinema I watch, the more I seem enthralled by a lot of what it’s about. The differences between it and its American counterparts really makes for a sweet break from what many American movie viewers might consider the “norm.” Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a film that I wasn’t exactly sure I would completely be able to dive into, but to my surprise, I was taken in, and this fine piece of cinematic glory didn’t let me go until the credits ran.

Sympathy tells the tale of Ryu (Ha-Kyun Shin), a deaf man whose sister is in dire need of a kidney transplant. Ryu loves his sister dearly and signs himself up to donate his own kidney. Unfortunately, his blood type doesn’t match, and a transplant isn’t possible. Soon, Ryu is fired from his job, and he falls in with some illegal organ dealers who promise to find his sister the kidney she needs in exchange for his kidney and a large sum of money. When that plan fails miserably, and Ryu finds himself more of a victim than anything else, his anarchist girlfriend (Du-na Bae) suggests a kidnapping for ransom situation in order to gain the necessary funds. A series of unfortunate events (apologies to Jim Carrey) begin to spiral out of control, and things take several turns for the worse. With several twisted elements to the final chapter of this film, you may be just as surprised as I was.

Great acting abounds in this brilliant film by director Chan-wook Park. Shin plays the role of Ryu with such heart, determination, and pure emotion, I felt as if I was right there with him during some of the film’s more tender moments. Kang-ho Song displays so much truth to his role of a grieving father who has just lost his wife and is spiraling into near-insanity. The supporting roles do well to boost the main cast and really bring the whole thing around into one cohesive unit.

There’s something quite charming about this film. Although it’s littered with somewhat gruesome violence throughout, there’s something endearing about this story and the almost child-like innocence that’s felt at times during some of Ryu’s scenes. The way that Park directs his actors shows his true genius as a filmmaker. Some of the camerawork also impressed me. The shots and angles used were surprising at times, but it was a pleasant surprise because of the break from what I’m personally used to.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance breaks many unwritten “rules” of modern cinema, and that’s a big part of what makes it so great. I fully plan on seeing Oldboy as soon as humanly possible, because I really want to experience more of what Chan-wook Park has to offer. I would heartily recommend Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance to anyone who can see themselves getting into a film that strays from the mainstream in a beautiful way.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Jason DeMoe

Jason is a movie lover by day, janitor by night. He’s a random, 28-year-old father of two who enjoys all things cinematic. Writing is a passion of his, and he hopes to infuse a bit of his personality and opinions with Passport Cinema.

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