Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mr and Mrs Vengeance

The first and third movies in Chan-wook Park's vengeance trilogy and neither anywhere near as good as the middle one, Oldboy.

In Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002) we meet an extraordinarily star-crossed character called Ryu, a deaf mute driven to kidnap his ex-boss's daughter in order to raise money for a life-saving operation for his sister.

Unable to hear the shouts of the girl as she accidentally drowns behind him, Ryu attracts the implacable vengeful urges of her father. Meanwhile Ryu is himself busy with his own vengeance against a gang of backstreet kidney rustlers. The most human and interesting character is Ryu's activist girlfriend, played by Du-na Bae (from Tube and Take Care of my Cat) who meets a particularly unpleasant end.

Lady Vengeance (2005) is let down by its rather pointless convolutions and its determination to beautify the flow of gore. It seemed to both of us that the wider narrative is really an excuse for the pivotal, darkly comic scene where the parents of children kidnapped and murdered by Mr Baek are given the chance to enact bloody communal vengeance. The rest, in some ways, is padding.

I do like the way that Park's stories have interesting gaps as they unfold, which ought to have the effect of forcing the viewer to engage more imaginatively with the material.

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