Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE



Revenge movie of the week:
SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE

Let’s face it, revenge is sweet!

Everybody has thought this at one time or another. How many times have you wanted to exact vengeance on someone who has hurt you or otherwise wronged you? You understand, logically, that you often can’t, or even shouldn’t. The same old litany runs through your head, “Revenge hurts me more than it hurts you.” Or, “I’m above all that.” Or, “Revenge makes me no different than you.” That’s a load of crap. It certainly doesn’t stop me from whiling myself to sleep, dreaming up creative and elaborate ways to utterly destroy my enemies. It’s probably fortunate that I don’t have a lot of enemies.

You may never actually go through with your dastardly plans, but it’s still fun to watch someone else do it – in the movies - because it's not real, you see. The movies give us that freedom. Hence the popularity of such revenge-based films as Kill Bill, Unforgiven, The Count of Monte Cristo, and of course Animal House (the whole parade float sequence). In these films, there is a “wronger” and a “wrongee”. The wrongee gets wronged and the rest of the film chronicles how the wrongee plans and executes vengeance on the wronger. Despite the almost exact spelling. there is no confusion about who is who. In SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, it’s not that easy. There’s more than one wronger and there’s more than one wrongee, and of course, just for the heck of it, some people are both.

Chan-wook Park, of South Korea, has made what is known as his “Revenge Trilogy”. SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE is the first of this series. Park doesn’t make vengeance very easy in his films, nor should he. These people are blinded by rage or base hatred. They act quickly and without thinking. They often make bad or illogical decisions that can have dire consequences down the road. That’s the fun of this film. In his later movies, he investigates the concept of planning your revenge over a long period of time – that’s fun too.

This movie is not for everyone. It can be rather violent at times (duh!), but not as much as you might think. The violence is not absurd or surreal as in “Kill Bill” or “Sin City”. Instead, the acts are realistic, something you might do if you were angry enough and just didn’t care anymore. That’s what makes them ever so much more satisfying, I think.

A brief synopsis: A young deaf man lives with his sister. His sister took care of him as they were growing up and now he must take care of her. She's ill and needs a kidney transplant. He tries to donate one of his, but he’s not a match. Another problem, he has only about half the money he needs for a kidney plus the operation. Still another problem, his boss just laid him off from work. Then, things start to go horribly wrong. Face it, if things didn’t go horribly wrong, nobody would watch this movie. So – this man’s life goes to hell in a hand basket – for your amusement – so you’d have an interesting movie to watch. Now, don’t you feel somewhat obligated to watch his film? Hmmm?

I already mentioned the violence. But here are some other things to keep in mind before deciding whether to watch this film.

  1. It’s in South Korean (and South Korean sign language) with various language sub-titles. But mostly, it’s in the language of “Vengeance”.
  2. If you ever visit Vengeance, it good to know the language.
  3. If you do ever get to Vengeance, be careful because it’s a dangerous place. The landscape’s not pretty, and especially stay away from the seething pressure cookers near the waterfront. Maybe it’s best to just get drunk and pass out. Better yet, just go to Aruba and chillax, as they say.
  4. At the risk of giving anything away, just in case you were counting on it, - time travel does not play a significant role in this story. Sorry.
  5. There is some sex and nudity. Not much, about the average amount for this type of movie. What does that mean? To help put this in perspective, let’s say it has more sex and nudity than The Sound of Music and somewhat less than Deep Throat. Does that narrow it down some?
  6. This could be the first time that “The Sound of Music” and “Deep Throat” were ever referenced in the same sentence.
  7. There are no references to either of these movies in this week’s film.
  8. Once, in the 4th grade, my teacher yelled at me in front of the class, and to get her back, I actually put a thumbtack on her seat. I actually did it! And ……… she actually sat on it! ……….. Unfortunately, she sat on it at an oblique angle and bent the point before it could pierce her butt. ………. ummmm, I forgot the point I was trying to make here. Oh well.
  9. Perhaps you’d like to share your own revenge vignettes here by posting a comment.
  10. It doesn’t have a happy ending, so put that expectation out of your mind right now!

Enjoy.

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