Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance starts non-violent building around character & tragedy, but when the bloody bits begin, it's downright grim.
Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) is a deaf mute whose sister needs a kidney. He wants to give her one of his, but it is not a match, so he attempts to get one on the black market, arranges a secret meeting, & when next he wakes up he's naked, robbed of his money, & robbed of one of his own kidneys. If Ryu is "Mr. Vengeance," his primary target will be the organ thieves, though why he didn't also put the medical establishment on his hitlist I don't know.
An organ comes available but Ryu's money has been stolen. He & his girlfriend (Dun-na Bae) hit upon a resoundingly stupid plan to kidnap an industrialist's little girl & get some money fast to pay for Ryu's sister's transplant. When the sister finds out about it, she is so ashamed she commits suicide, & Ryu falls into such a depressed dither that he manages by accident to let the kidnapped child drown.
So if Mr. Vengeance is the ultra-depressed child's father (Kang-ho Song), then his mission is to kill Ryu & his girlfriend, whose actions resulted in his daughter's death.
This would seem to be Mr. Vengeance times two, but there may be even more Mr. Vengeances if a wild story told by Ryu's girlfriend turns out to be true. She rather pathetically claims to be a member of an underground revolutionary organization, though she seems to be its only member, & claims it is "100 percent certain" that her fellow revolutionaries will avenge her if the girl's father procedes with his electrical torture to the point of killing her.
The tension of the film is in the sympathetic nature of both Mr. Vengeances. Ryu has been motivated by love of his sister & when it all goes wrong, his mission of mass murder is too loony to actually applaud, but he's understandable. We never fail to believe that underneath his apparent psychotic break is a sweet boy.
The girl's father's grief-compelled mission of vengeance is even easier to understand. But this is no blood-fetish film for heartless viewers, as it remains clear that the father cannot be satisfied with his revenge nor achieve any closure, for he knows too well his enemies aren't bad people.
Everyone has sympathy for everyone, & contrasting this sympathetic tone to the graphic violence is much more unsettling than a film that is gorey without emotion.
Director Chan Wook Park followed up this intense revenge masterpiece with the nearly-as-powerful Oldboy (2003), & a third film to complete the vengeance trilogy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005).
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl