Quick-Thoughts: Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

If you thought your week was going bad…

Park Chan-wook gives you a lot of reasons to pity people who end up committing terrible things. Every so often we’ll see main characters (usually our Misters) commit acts of kindness and suffer under excruciatingly unfair conditions due to the rules of their social classes, but doesn’t everybody do so from time to time, even the monsters of our world? The apparatus of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is in its intricately plausible yet convoluted example of how people are capable of driving their ego farther for vengeance even in spite of who they act as commonly, often leading their pursuits into hesitant, regrettable decision-making. I can’t help but feel too that Chan-wook is hammering in the idea that all of us instinctively treat revenge as some necessary obligation, some overruling of the social order we’ve been conditioned to and ultimately a release of the animalistic rituals that we can make them out to be. This opens up a debate for how large exactly has the extent of social damage stemmed from humanity’s ordinary response to betrayal in its ability to drastically change our goodwill towards others. Maybe counting the dead is really the closest we’ll ever get to a clean answer for that.

I also respect how reserved and tempered this feels in hindsight of its dark subject matter as opposed to Chan-wook’s other, more eccentric work; it fits the themes of the film well. 

Verdict: B

Park Chan-wook Ranked

“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

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