75 Films From Asia: SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002)

The first film of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is explosive, bloody, and incredibly nuanced from start to end.

CREDIT: CJ Entertainment

I don’t know if I am just excited to continue with this challenge or just the thought of watching and reviewing a film by legendary Korean director, Park Chan-wook, which makes me incredibly excited? This is the first of his Vengeance Trilogy and I am starting to feel somewhat dumb for watching this one after Oldboy (2003) but maybe after this is all done I will watch the trilogy in order. Even though I had watched other films of his before this absolutely nothing could prepare me for this anxiety-inducing film from Chan-wook.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) follows the story of a deaf brother and his girlfriend as they try to acquire money for a kidney transplant for his sister by holding a wealthy man’s daughter for ransom. The film includes the cast of  Song Kang-ho, Bae Doona, Han Bo-bae, and Im Ji-eun as they deliver excellent performances. Everyone is fantastic in this film, but I have to give it up for Shin Ha-kyun whose body language and mannerisms truly make the character of Ryu. Of course, Song Kang-ho is incredible as he always is and I think I might have to admit that he is probably one of if not the best Korean actor of all time.

The film does take a bit to unravel at first but once it picks up you are in for a ride that only Park Chan-wook can create. There are blood, sweat, and tears throughout this whole film with incredible levels of nuance on the subject matter. Once again, Chan-wook is no stranger to tackling classism and the faults of capitalism. He also tackles the state of the opposition against the higher class and how some may not even think such opposition even exists. Not only is this well written but it is photographed magnificently by Kim Byung-il, seriously every other shot can be hung up on a wall as an art piece. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) is another masterpiece by the genius director and one that stands out in his already prolific filmography.

Watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) on Shudder. You can keep up with this movie challenge of mine by checking out my Letterboxd or the google doc of all the films I will be watching and reviewing.

75 Films From Asia: OLDBOY (2003)

Bloody, suspenseful, and filled with twists and turns, Park Chan-wook creates a masterclass in storytelling.

CREDIT: Show East

This is not my first rodeo with South Korean cinema and by now you can tell I am not watching one whole country of films which sounds like a better idea right now but I am in too deep. I loved the Academy Award-winning film Parasite (2019) along with what I consider the best zombie film, Train to Busan (2016), and of course, I was amazed by Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (2016). I still felt that my knowledge of South Korean cinema was vastly minimal, and because of that, I decided to begin with this gem.

Oldboy (2003) directed by legendary Korean filmmaker, Park Chan-wook, looks at Dae-Su (Cbol Min-sik) as he tries to find the man that mysteriously imprisoned him and the events that would unravel with this journey. This is the second film in a trilogy of three different films that do not follow an overarching story called, Vengeance Trilogy. The film is an absolute masterpiece but I seem to be saying twice now with this being the second film from Chan-wook I have seen. Everything from the amazing musical score to the incredible choreography of the corridor fight scene makes this one of the best movies I have ever seen. This beautifully stylized picture never lets you go from the beginning to the end. It is filled with twists and turns as normal for a Park Chan-wook film. As I progress on with this challenge I am without a doubt this makes it into my top 5 for sure.

Remember you can follow along with this challenge by following my Letterboxd list, or the google doc list of films that are left to watch.