I’ve now seen a handful of films by Park Chan-wook and, next to Quentin Tarantino, I can’t think of another living director whose chic imagery predictably brings fanboys to their knees in spite of their lack of meaning. In many ways anticipating Tarantino’s Kill Bill films and Park’s own Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (or, more accurately, Park Chan-wook’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) is a daisy wheel of revenge-fueled gore speciously intercut with delusions of social commentary: It’s like watching a relative carve a Thanksgiving turkey while intermittingly screaming out words like “communism” and “new liberalism.” In short: No matter what comes out of these characters’ mouths, it doesn’t contextualize any of the ugliness that transpires on screen, from a group of boys jerking off to a girl’s orgasm-like screams of pain to a hospital staff senselessly allowing a father to witness his daughter’s autopsy. In the film, a deaf mute, Ryu (Shin Ha-Kyun), is fired by his boss. His sister is in dire need of a kidney transplant but he can’t donate one of his own because he’s the wrong blood type. After a transaction with a group of organ dealers goes horribly wrong, Ryu and his terrorist girlfriend kidnap his former boss’s daughter, whose unexpected death provokes a whirlwind of retribution. Park has said that his films are cynical because he lives life optimistically, but since the director is scarcely critical of the chilly spectacles of violence in his films, do the horrors in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy reflect the man’s deepest, darkest fantasies? Let’s hope not.
- Tartan Films
- 121 min
- Park Chan-wook
- Park Chan-wook, Lee Jae-sun, Lee Mu-yeong, Lee Yong-jong
- Song Kang-ho, Shin Ha-Kyun, Bae Du-na, Lim Ji-Eun, Han Bo-bae, Kim Se-dong, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Kan-hie
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