Korean director Park Chan-wook followed up his highly acclaimed Joint Security Area with this tale of a deaf mute named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) trying to help his sister (Lim Ji-Eun) get a kidney transplant. Because his blood type is incompatible and no donors are available, he turns to a group of black-market organ dealers who offer to find one in return for one of his and ten million won. The dealers rip him off, so Ryu conspires with his girlfriend, a political activist, to kidnap his former boss' young daughter and ransom her for the ten million won. But a horrible complication ruins their plans and things begin to spiral out of control as the girl's father (Song Kang-ho) decides to take matters into his own hands with the help of a sympathetic cop. ~ Tom Vick, All Movie Guide
The first installment of Chan-wook Park's Revenge Trilogy ...followed by "Oldboy" and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance"... a slow quiet film, the violence that unravels is like a slap in the face...the ending is heart breaking, and hard to watch, but it couldn't have ended any other way.
Chan Wook Park's splendid if difficult SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE was made prior to his "Old Boy" (which was released first here in the US). Part of a trilogy, which has now concluded with yet-to-be-DVD-released "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance," the film again deals with revenge and its various outcomes. I can't recall any movies that handle this theme better--neither from the perspective of story nor of filmmaking technique. Park's sense of composition and color, his ability to capture so much in a single shot, is remarkable. Yet what really stands out to me is how he makes us care about and understand all his main characters and their needs. No one becomes a villain, even though each does stupid and terrible things.
Interestingly, we see not so much violence or bloodshed for the first hour of the film. Instead the director builds his story quietly, communicating the gnawing feeling that we are here as witnesses to the worst that could happen. And then he escalates, brilliantly. Because, by the finale, we better appreciate the enormous waste of life and its possibilities that revenge wreaks, I stand with those Park-lovers who insist that this director is not exploitative (a la Tarantino and his ilk) but highly responsible, moral to the core, and a great filmmaker. If you haven't yet seen it, rent his wonderful J.S.A. ("Joint Security Area"), too.