A deaf man kidnaps the daughter of an executive so he can get money to pay for his sister's kidney operation, but everything goes horribly wrong.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Directed by Chan-wook Park
Written by Mu-yeong Lee, Chan-wook Park,
Jae-sun Lee, Jong-yong Lee
Starring Ha-kyun Shin, Kang-ho Song, Doona Bae,
Ji-Eun Lim, Bo-bae Han
Few directors can do unforgiving, brutal, fucked up violence like Chan-wook Park. Having already seen his masterpiece, Oldboy, I sort of knew what to expect with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. But in a much more real way, I had no idea what to expect. This film is brilliantly executed and just plain horrific, not because of gore or visuals, but because of how people act when faced with their worst nightmare. There are no heroes or villains. Every character is a mixture of light and dark, and everyone is sympathetic right up to when they're committing cold-blooded murder. Korean cinema is unflinching and I can't get enough of it.
Ryu (Shin) is a recently laid off, deaf, green-haired young man who needs to get money for his sister's operation. First, he has the money and gets conned out of it by these black market organ dealers who steal his money and his kidney. After that, his girlfriend (Bae) convinces him to kidnap a wealthy executive's little girl (Han). As we've seen in Fargo, From Dusk Till Dawn, All the Money in the World, Alpha Dog, and so many others, kidnapping is never a smart way to make money. Something always goes wrong, and holy shit, does it ever. I won't spoil what happens, because the shock is a big part of it. Suffice it to say, it's a harsh, unforgettable scene that turns this into a completely different movie and gives us a new protagonist with cold, cold vengeance on his mind.
This was the film that kicked off Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy, with Oldboy and Lady Vengeance following. I've seen two now, and Park definitely knows how to shake up an audience. The story is engaging, the characters are morally corrupt but realistic, and the shocks are worth it. This is a solid piece of cinema.