Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Boksuneun naui geot, 2002)

Hong Kong Edko Films DVD edition

Text below written 2020-08-11


Stylistically stringent and pitch-black tragedy crime drama from then (in 2002) the most exciting new film director from not just South Korea, but
maybe from anywhere in the world (but film makers as Takashi Miike and Shunji Iwai and some else would be about on the same high level too).
Park's favourites, the very interesting or even fascinating progressive indie band The Uhuhboo Project provides the highly original music to the
grim proceedings (and i know Park used them also in his experimental 2011 Night Fishing (Paramanjang)
highly recommended that film too.

Park had made a huge splash in South Korea with his previous film, his 2000 mainstream action thriller JSA (Joint Security Area) about happenings
at the border to the North, an ever beloved theme in the South Korean film industry. And earlier in the 1990's Park has made two very obscure and
probably unseen by most crime movies. With Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance however he made an immediate international sensation among the Cult
Film lovers and the fans of the Asian New wave, only to be superseded by his 2nd part of the Revenge trilogy, Old Boy in 2003. I remember the buzz
in all the asian film lovers forums that existed then, aaah those were the days, The Golden era of mind-blowing Japanese and South Korean films.

Ryu and Yeong-mi

Deaf-mute Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) have a sister that is dying and in need of a new kidney and he has to take her from the very expensive hospital care
where she waits for a suitable kidney to turn up for a transplant. Ryu can't donate his own kidney either due to blood group differences.
He must raise the money for the transplant and he starts working double shifts at the factory where he works. He also contacts some very shady
underground organ dealers for a great catch, he pays them 10 million won + his kidney and they provide him with a kidney for his sister.
The organ dealers works out of a high building under construction, on a high level with raw concrete everywhere, and another warning sign should
have been (Ryu is not very bright) that the sleazy looking old lady who's the boss have a bad heroin addiction.

Ryu even shows the lady some compassion and helps her making her shot. But to no avail as he wakes up naked on the concrete floor and with the
organ traffickers gone. I haven't been able to detect the name of the disgusting lady boss (Lee Yoon-mi acc. to IMDB, but good luck finding that
actress with a generic name like that, Lee .... i can only find a much younger actress or some singer). Anyway, she was great and frightening, kudos.

Yeong-mi , played by the amazing Bae Doo-na (one of my favourite actresses of all time) is Ryu's girlfriend (an old class-mate from the sign-school
where she Ryu went and learnt sign language) and she's also a member of a revolutionary leftist group, she says, it may or may not exist ?
She suggest a solution, to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Park Dong-jin (Song Kang-ho) and extort a ransom of 26 million won.
There are good and there are bad kidnappings she says, and this is the former, a socialistic movement of money.
Ryu's sister (Im Ji-eun) takes care of the child and when she understands what Ryu has done, then this film turns into Ultra Feel Bad Tragedy.

The Hong Kong DVD edition

I remember being sitting silent unable to move after watching this film and listening to the .... harrowing sounds heard when the end credits
rolled, the gurgling sounds from a dying Dong-jin. What an emotional impact this film had, WOW!
A film with disturbing scenes of violence, but also a film with probably the strongest Anti-Violence effect i've ever seen. Just thinking about
violence after having watched this film makes you feel nauseous, just like Alex after his therapy in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange".
When writing this in august 2020 almost 2 decades since watching it for the 1st time, i can just conclude my earlier assessment of the film -
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a Masterpiece and the Best Film of Park Chan-wook, with fantastic acting from Shin Ha-kyun and Song-
Kang-ho and .... from my beloved Bae Doo-na.

The immensively talented Bae Doo-na who here left the genre of romantic comedies, a brand of successful korean films that won over south-
eastern asia and started the Gold Era of South Korean film in the second part of the 1990's. She really shows her range as an actress as the
girlfriend of Ryu. She's intensely alive and her sad fate feels the more tragic because of it.
My favourite Bae Doo-na role though would probably be as Son, the korean exchange student singer in Nobuhiro Yamashita's "Linda, Linda,
Linda" one of my favourite japanese films ever.

What about Shin ha-kyun then ? Well, he just had the main role in "Save the Green Planet", the best South Korean film ever made.
And Song Kang-ho, today he has become the Titan actor of korean film but he also, like Bae Doo-na, hadn't at the time played such a
demanding and difficult role. Today, he's the King Actor in South Korea.

Song Kang-ho's Dong-jin

IN SWEDISH BELOW about the film critic scandal where Swedish asshole film critics uniformly trashed the film (Swedish title: Hämnarens resa)
as being just another asian gore fest without any substance and made by a hack director. Everything was B level about this piece of trash.
Well, the problem was that Park was completely unknown for them, and a year later when he won big in Cannes they suddenly hailed him

Till försvar av Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance och den stora svenska kritikerskandalen (skrivet 2004):

MEN, detta är INTE en film för alla uppenbarligen då den - förstås - slaktades av eliten av kultureliten: De svenska
Filmrecensenterna, ja blott Sverige svenska filmrecensenter har. Jeanette Gentele SvD, Bernt Eklund Expressen och
Karin Linstedt Aftonbladet heter dessa .... "begåvningar" som i sina undermåliga recensioner kallar filmen för bl.a.
"en trött utstuderad våldsorgie" i sina pinsamt förutsägbara och rent rutinmässiga "asiatiskt filmvåldsfixering" vinklingar.
Filmen må vara våldsam men hur man kan kalla den för "trött" är märkligt för någon mindre trött våldsskildring lär man
väl sällan få se. Park visar istället hur social utsatthet, desperation, våld och hämndkänslor urholkar människan och att
våld, verkligt våld, är något ohyggligt och deprimerande.

Slutscenerna och den effektiva användningen av ljudet till eftertexterna (Song Kang-ho's gurglande) måste vara en av
hela filmhistoriens mest outhärdligt deprimerande ögonblick. Filmisk Feel Bad när den är som allra effektivast och efter
att ha sett denna film kommer ingen, garanterat INGEN vilja skada ens en fluga. "Trött våldsorgie" - jo, tjena.

Naturligtvis nämner inte dessa "elit-filmskribenter" med ett ord att filmen unisont hyllats i resten av världen, bl.a. med:
Bästa film Grand Jury Award 2003 Philadelfia Film Festival, bästa film Audience Award 8th Montreal Fantasy
Film Festival,
bästa film och regissör Film Critics Award 3d Pusan Film Festival, Korean Director's Cut Award
bästa regissör 2002 och hyllats som ett mästerverk av många kritiker världen runt.

De nämner inte heller det stora skådespeleriet av t.ex. Song Kang-ho (kanske Sydkoreas störste skådespelare), av
Shin Ha-kyun och av Bae Doo-na. Men det mest pinsamma med våra "stora recensenters" insats är att dem troligen
(i mars 2004 när jag skrev detta alltså) kände till att Park Chan-wook betraktas som kanske inte bara Sydkoreas
utan även som en av världens mest spännande nya regissörer, för hade dem gjort det så hade det garanterat varit ett
annat ljud i skällan från dessa ängsliga och trendkänsliga fårflocks-mentalitets recensenter.
Framtidens omdömen över filmen kommer lyckligtvis att berätta en helt annan historia och man kommer att skratta
gott åt deras rutinmässiga nedsablingar där en regissörs kändisskap bland kultureliten avgör omdömet om en film.

Tillägg i maj 2004: Jaha, Park Chan-wook's nya film Old Boy vann Stora Jurypriset i Cannes, onekligen bra jobbat
av en av svenska filmkritiker utdömd kalkonfilmare och som föranledde SvD's filmrecensent Jeanette Gentele att
vid visningen av Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Hämnarens resa) " .... som recensent titta ned och rita blommor i
blocket", verkligen en banbrytande insats för filmrencensions-konsten. Bra jobbat Gentele.

Men nu, efter att Park blivit känd så kommer vår svenska fårflock till filmrecensenter garanterat likt Pavlovska
hundar vifta på svansen och överträffa varandra i lovord. Urrrk, fy faan vad dem suger.

Tillägg i November 2015:
Besides Oldboy Park made the fascinating shortfilm NEPAL (Never ending peace and love) in 2003 and one of
his best films. In 2005 he finished his famous and critically acclaimed Revenge trilogy with Sympathy for Lady
Vengeance and in 2006 in a delightfully smaller format the still enjoyable and quirky I'm a Cyborg but that's OK.
Then in 2009 his vampire flick Thirst (which i still haven't seen). In 2011 he was back in Full Force with his
brother-cooperation short film filmed on iPhone experiment, the absolutely Über great artmovie Night Fishing.
And, let's not talk about his Hollywood 2013 film Stoker as i have nothing nice to say.

Question: What will we see in the future from Park ? Great korean indies like in the Night Fishing vein or dull
stinkers produced internationally ?

A 2020 Answer: Park made a short and a documentary about Seoul in 2014, a TV series in 2019 and
in 2016 his
latest feature film "Handmaiden" a stylish and slick looking drama thriller, but much overrated as i found it
lacking in substance. Much better than "Stoker" though, but i want the old Park back