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It's easy to see why Park Chan-Wook has become such a favorite over the years, particularly with his Vengenace trilogy dating back to the 2002 release of Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. I had only been familiar with the 2003 release of Oldboy, the second of all three Vengeance titles with each film telling a different tale, and so it's only a matter of time before I set out to catch Lady Vengeance in the process.
For now, I speak of the first film which centers on Shin Ha-Kyun as Ryu, a jobless deaf mute who, after a failed attempt to sell his kidney to the black market to acquire the funds for his ailing sister's own kidney operation, hatches a plan with his girlfriend, Cha, to get the money he needs. However, secrets be damned, the truth unfolds in a plot that deals in kidnapping, murder, mystery, and inner-turmoil for Dong-jin, a grief-stricken father who will stop at nothing to get his revenge.
If you're not yet keen on this film then forgive me for being as vague as I am here. The film has been out for a good fourteen years and I've only just hopped on it myself, and being a precursor to Oldboy, I couldn't ignore this for very long despite usually writing about action movies. The film itself plays out more as an arthouse crime thriller with interwoven drama and slow-paced sequencing. The characters are fantastically portrayed and timed beautifully in their evolution as the plot thickens.
The Thieves co-star, actor Shin Ha-Kyun propels the grim story in the role of Ryu with Cloud Atlas co-star, actress Bae Doo-na in the role of Cha whose membership in a radical anarchist group may or may not be just a one-person gig. Award-winning TV actress Im Ji-eun plays Ryu's sister whose growing friendship with young actress Han Bo-Bae proves quite pivotal in the film's ultimate twist as you grow to love them both. Song Kang-ho, a Korean cinema favorite known recently for his role in the 2013 festival favorite, Snowpiercer, commands the remaining half of the film as Dong-jin whose deseperate search for vengeance is illustrated masterfully as a touching and gripping downward spiral that affects all of our main characters one way or another.
Park's vision here is wonderfully crafted for a tale with a look that isn't too boring even though a film walks a little bit on the edge of it with its pacing; what saves the film largely is its delivery through the performances, the cinematography, the script, the ways in which dialogue is delivered, the scenery, the set pieces and some of the most delightful surprises that occur in a tale as grim as this.
Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance is a violent film, but it doesn't exploit gore at all, it accentuates it. The plot is rewardingly crafted in several ways that doesn't try a lot of your patience, immersing you in a crime story that will compel you and not distract you, and often tickles one's own resonance and understanding of cimema, or Korean cinema for that matter.
It's not for everyone, but it pays to have an open mind, and if you have overlooked this film for any reason in the past decade, stop.
EXCLUSIVE: Emerging director, actor and martial artist Vincent Soberano is hot on the campaign trail for his current film slate this week in Beijing. With at least two of his upcoming releases now privately showcasing in Beijing for an audience comprised of major Hollywood and Chinese industry executives and distributors therein, it's a milestone to marvel at with Soberano now hailing as the first Filipino director to be privy to a screening of this kind.
Not for nothing either, as the footage speaks for itself and those who've seen last year's teaser trailer for Blood Hunters: Rise Of The Hybrids would likely stand in accordance. Since then, the eight-time world Muay Thai champion's craft behind the lens has only continued to grow and with none other than latest of one of the aforementioned two titles now readying for a local theatrical release this May with martial arts revenge thriller, The Trigonal: Fight For Justice. An underground fighting circuit run by an intern…
Actor and action star Donnie Yen is maintaining his high profile at Filmart in Hong Kong, including a pair of titles currently being sold under Hong Kong’s Mega-Vision Project Workshop that list Kam Ka-Wai's Big Brother and Tanigaki Kenji's Enter The Fat Dragon. Both have made headlines quite a bit in the past year in addition to several others that are also being shopped at Filmart while the latest is just breaking out of Asia by way of Emperor Motion Pictures.
For this, we turn to a recent teaser poster circulating ahead of production for Call Of Heroes helmer Benny Chan action thriller, Crossfire. The project is being hailed as a big budget spectacle that will star Yen as a former police inspector who travels to South America to rescue his kidnapped wife. The title stand among a bustling raft of films hosted by EMP with Dante Lam getting first billing for another spectacular military action spectacle to follow up his previous successes in Operation Mekong (2016), and Opera…
Inexplicably, Fruit Chan's latest action thriller, The Invincible Dragon, has taken a pretty long road in post-production. A 2018 release may be likely for that matter considering it's been about a year since the first trailer went live and will yet finally see action star Max Zhang deservedly on the big screen.
It's especially a fine time to make the move too, given Zhang's current profusion both locally and overseas with multiple projects lined up at Filmart and readying rollouts later this year as well. The actor and martial arts star is joined by actor and former MMA middleweight champion Anderson Silva who gets to chew some dialogue and fisticuffs with our lead in stellar fashion. Once upon a time, the undercover agent with dragon tattoo continually helped the police solve mysterious cases, which made him known as a rising star. However, his impulsive personality dragged him into endless trouble. He got himself into fights with the Macau detective (Kevin Cheng), a…