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'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance' - The sister of a simple and deaf factory worker, Ryu, falls ill and needs a kidney transplant, however he is not a match so he looks to the black market which he can’t afford. After being fired from his job, his rebel girlfriend suggests that he kidnap the child of his former boss, Park. When the girl accidentally dies, her father seeks vengeance for her death. 'Oldboy' - Park Chan-Wook’s classic genre-defining revenge tale of a man who’s wrongly been imprisoned for 15 years and is then suddenly released. Given money and a cell phone, he’s challenged to discover who incarcerated him in the first place, but he only has five days to uncover the truth. Even with a mysterious young girl to help him, his tortures have just begun. Cannes-winner championed by Tarantino, OLDBOY regularly appeared in top ten best movie polls across the country and is listed as one of the all-time best films as rated by IMDB users. 'Lady Vengeance' - After being wrongfully convicted of kidnapping and murdering a young child, a beautiful young woman (Lee Young-ae) is imprisoned for 13 years. While in prison she gains the respect and loyalty of her fellow cellmates, all the while plotting her vendetta on the man responsible (OLDBOY’s Choi Min-Sik). Upon her release she sets in motion an elaborate plan of retribution, but what she discovers is a truth so horrifying, even revenge doesn’t seem punishment enough.
For more about Vengeance Trilogy and the Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray release, see Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 14, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 14, 2011
Multiple award-winners at various prestigious film festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival and Venice Film Festival, Korean director Park Chan-wook's "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002), "Oldboy" (2003), and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" (2005) arrive on Blu-ray courtesy of Canadian distributors Alliance. The four-disc collection also contains an enormous amount of supplemental features - various audio commentaries; cast and crew interviews; deleted and alternate scenes; behind the scenes featurettes; making of featurettes; footage from various festivals; photos and stills; trailers; and more. In Korean, with optional English and French subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Korean director Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a cold and uncharacteristically brutal film about desperate people committing desperate acts of violence. The film has a lot of the same overtones one would encounter in the films of American director Quentin Tarantino, but is far from being a shameless copycat. Still, plenty of the graphic violence in it is as pointless as that promoted by Tarantino.
Here's the plot: A deaf mute, Ryu (Shin Ha-Kyun, The Devil's Game), who has just been fired from his job, is desperately trying to find a way to help his sister (Lim Ji-Eun, Girl Scout) who needs a kidney transplant. Because his blood type does not match that of his sister, and therefore he cannot give her one of his kidneys, he begins searching for a donor. Ryu approaches a group of organ dealers who promise to help him, but gets cheated - the dealers steal his money as well as one of his kidneys.
Realizing that time is running out, Ryu and his girlfriend, who is involved with a secret terrorist organization, kidnap the daughter of his ex-boss, Park Dong-jin (Song Kang-ho, The Good, The Bad, The Weird); with the ransom money, they plan to buy a kidney for Ryu's sister. While they wait for the money to be delivered, however, something terrible happens - the little girl drowns. Her father goes berserk and vows to have Ruy killed.
It is not easy to like the main protagonists in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Even though for awhile it seems like they are all good people - at least during the first half of the film their intentions are noble - they are actually as evil as those who punish them. And this is precisely why Park's film is so unique; it twists all the familiar cliches about good and evil that we have come to expect from mainstream cinema in a fairly entertaining fashion.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance clearly lacks the visual finesse of the other two films in director Park's "Vengeance Trilogy", Oldboy (2003) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005). This is a rough and notably minimalist film, certain parts of which look as if they have been taken straight out of a documentary feature about psychopathic murderers.
Many of the film's disturbingly violent scenes have been injected with subtle dark humor that makes them slightly easier to endure. Still, quite a few come off as purely exploitative. Elsewhere in the film, there are scenes that are supposed to be funny - such as the one where a group of young boys are seen masturbating together - but look depressing.
The dialog in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is kept to an absolute minimum, and some of the most effective scenes in the film are precisely the ones where the main protagonists are seen alone, struggling with their emotions.
The acting is strong. Song Kang-ho and Shin Ha-kyun are very convincing in front of the camera. The quiet but dramatic character transformation the former undergoes, in particular, is terrifically captured by director Park's camera.
Cinematographer Kim Byeong-il, however, is certainly not as convincing as Chung Chung-hoon (Oldboy; Sympathy for Lady Vengeance; Thirst).
A man (Choi Min-sik, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is kidnapped and locked into a room. Later on, he learns that his wife has been brutally killed and daughter adopted in Sweden. The man's only contact with the outside world is through a small TV set. He is told that if he escapes, the police will be after him.
Fifteen years later, the man is released with a wallet full of money and a cell phone. Someone calls the man and tells him that it is time that he figured out why he was imprisoned. The man does not have a clue where to start, or what to do.
The man meets a girl (Kang Hye-jeong, Why Didi You Come To My House) who offers to help - she likes him. He does not know if he likes the girl, not yet – he has not been with one for fifteen years. An old friend of the man also appears, and offers to help him track down his abductor. Soon after, he is killed.
Another man (Yu Ji-tae, Woman Is the Future of Man) appears and announces that he is going to kill every woman the man has ever loved, including his new friend – unless he discovers why he was forced to suffer. If he does, the man would kill himself. He also announces that he knows everything there is to know, because he is the one who had him kidnapped and imprisoned. Finally, he tells the man that if he wishes he could have his revenge now, but he would never know why he was forced to suffer. So, what would it be, revenge or truth?
Much has been made of the fact that Park Chan-wook was a philosophy student before he became a film director. Those who have seen all of his films believe that his unique treatment of violence, guilt and redemption are directly influenced by his philosophical view of the world we live in – according to Chan-wook, there is a logical explanation for everything that occurs around us.
In Oldboy, a film that propelled the director into the international spotlight after it won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, a man, Oh Dae-su, comes to realize precisely that. In the beginning of the film, he struggles to understand why he is being imprisoned, but after he is released, and after he is given a few clues as to why he might have been forced to suffer, he begins to see the world differently. It is a painful transformation for Dae-su – literally- but in a twisted sort of way also a rewarding one.
What makes Oldboy special, however, is the second point of view it offers - that of a man, Lee Woo-jin, who we are introduced to much later on, after we have already accepted that Dae-su is a victim. Through his words and actions, Chan-wook carefully questions whether knowing is indeed related to happiness, and whether ignorance is bliss.
If all you got from Oldboy, however, is that it is a revenge film, I urge you to see it again. There are rich subtexts in it that can be traced back to classic Greek Drama, as well as curious generalizations about the world we live in that are far more effective than the flashy violence Oldboy is filled with.
Technically, Oldboy is also an impressive accomplishment. The unconventional camerawork gives the film a stylish and sleek look that makes many of the graphic scenes in it a lot easier to watch. The wonderful music score, blending classical with contemporary tunes, also adds to the film's unique atmosphere.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
It takes awhile for things to get going in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Korean director Park Chan-wook's third and final installment in his so-called "Revenge Trilogy" (the other two films in it are Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance). The film has a very unusual structure - bits and pieces from the main protagonist's past are carefully linked to her present - with a maze of unpredictable twist.
A thirty-something woman, Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae, One Fine Spring Day), has been forced to give up her daughter and spent several years in jail for the killing of a young boy. Though she has confessed to the crime, it is unclear whether or not her confession was sincere. An interesting sequence during the second half of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance sheds more light on what actually happened.
For well over an hour, the film also follows the deeds of a colorful group of characters who have important parts in Lee Geum-ja's story – a suspicious cop (Nam Il-woo) who did not buy her confession, an incredibly nasty fat lesbian (Go Su-heui, No Mercy for the Rude), a young boy who wants to make love to her but is too shy to admit it (Seo Yeong-ju), and an extravagant preacher (Kim Byeong-ok, I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK). Some of the characters are used to clarify why Lee Geum-ja reunites with a few of her prison mates and helps them obtain justice.
Lee Geum-ja also reunites with her daughter, who has been adopted by an Australian couple, and learns about a perverted school teacher (Choi Min-shik, Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War) responsible for a string of brutal crimes.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance offers an interesting character study, which most of you who are already familiar with Old Boy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance will undoubtedly enjoy. The script for the film is notably complex, emphasizing the emotional turmoil the main protagonist undergoes rather than the events responsible for it.
The multiple secondary characters and their stories are at times a bit overwhelming – the memory flashbacks, in particular, could be very misleading – but once the film reaches the hour mark, things get clearer.
Technically, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance looks sharp - the decision to counter the graphic violence with classical music, for example, works exceptionally well. Cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon's (Thirst) lensing, specifically during some of the most graphic scenes, is also terrific. Additionally, many of the close-ups studying the main protagonist's face are intoxicatingly beautiful.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance will likely spur mixed reactions amongst Western viewers who have not yet had the opportunity to experience some of the best films South Korean directors have produced in recent years. In fact, I would argue that an overwhelming amount of the subtle themes in the film will likely remain unnoticed by Westerners. On the other hand, the solid performances guarantee that the film would have at least some sort of effect.
In 2005, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance won the prestigious CinemAvvenire Award (for Best Film) and Little Golden Lion Award (director Park) at the Venice International Film Festival.
Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.31:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Canadian distributors Alliance.
It appears that Alliance have used the same high-definition transfer Palisades Tartan used for their Blu-ray release of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. I did some random comparisons between the two releases and really could not see much of a difference. Generally speaking, fine object detail is very good, while sharpness and contrast levels are relatively consistent. The color reproduction is also satisfying; the variety of blacks, blues, greens, yellows, browns, and blacks look lush and healthy. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. My only minor complaint here pertains to the presence of mild edge-enhancement that is occasionally easy to spot. Still, this is a strong high-definition transfer that does the film justice. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Park Chan-wook's Oldboy arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Canadian distributors Alliance.
Once again, from what I could tell this high-definition transfer is identical to the one Palisades Tartan used for their Blu-ray release of Oldboy. Thus, I would have to leave the same comments I had for the British release of the film. In my opinion, the high-definition transfer is fairly inconsistent. Most of it, and especially the daylight footage from the first half of the film, looks good; detail and clarity are pleasing. During the final 20-25 minutes, however, there is plenty of digital noise. During selected scenes there is also some light flicker around the edges. Finally, there are random noise corrections that have been applied as well. All in all, while the transfer is certainly serviceable, I share the opinion that it could have been quite a bit stronger. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Canadian distributors Alliance.
Alliance have included the Theatrical and "Fade to White" versions of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and aside from some mild edge-enhancement occasionally popping up here and there on the "Fade to White" version, both look very good. The various close-ups for instance convey wonderful depth, while even the darker panoramic vistas are wonderfully detailed. There are no annoying artifacts or serious stability issues. I also did not see any large flecks, scratches, stains, or damage marks to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Note: Screenshots 1-6 are from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, 7-13 from Oldboy, and 14-19 from Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.
Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Alliance have provided optional English and French subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, both appear inside the image frame.
The Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track isn't likely to test the muscles of audio system. The surround activity is rather limited, while the bass comes alive only during a few of the key scenes in the final third of the film. Still, the sound has very pleasing organic qualities, and the dialog is exceptionally easy to follow. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review. The English translation is also very good.
There are five audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Korean Dolby Digital 2.0, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0. For the record, Alliance have provided optional English and French subtitles for the main feature. When the English subtitles are turned on, the split the image frame and the black bar below it. When the French subtitles are turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is solid. Though the surround channels are not overly active, the loseless track adds an enormous amount of depth to Shim Hyun-jung's music score. During the various action scenes (such as the one in the tunnel where the main protagonist is attacked by a gang of goons), the bass also is very effective. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. I also did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review. The English translation is very well done.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
There is only one track available for the two version of the film: Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Alliance have provided optional English and French subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on this disc is the most impressive one in the entire trilogy - it is wonderfully nuanced and indeed very effective. Choi Seung-hyun's ambient music score also benefits tremendously from the loseless treatment. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. There are no disturbing pops, clicks, hissing or audio dropouts either. The English translation is excellent.
Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It appears that this is indeed the definitive English-friendly release of Korean director Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy - Oldboy has received the loseless audio track that is missing from the U.S. boxset Palisades Tartan released, and all of the supplemental features have also been ported to this release. So, there is nothing else to say other than suggest that you consider adding Alliance's boxset to your collections if you have not yet seen the three films in it. If you already own Palisades Tartan's boxset, then you have some difficult decisions to make. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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