Tag Archives: Bae Doona

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) Review

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Dong-jin
Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu
Bae Doona as Cha Yeong-mia
Director: Park Chan-wook

This is the story of Ryu (Shin Hagyun), a deaf man, and his sister (Lim Ji-Eun), who requires a kidney transplant. Ryu’s boss, Park (Song Kang-ho), has just laid him off, and in order to afford the transplant, Ryu and his girlfriend (Bae Doo-na) develop a plan to kidnap Park’s daughter. Things go horribly wrong, and the situation spirals rapidly into a cycle of violence and revenge.

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I knew of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance as being a film from Chan-wook Park, but also the first movie of his unofficial ‘Vengeance trilogy’, which also includes Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I really didn’t know what to expect going in, I just knew that Song Kang-ho was in it, and I heard that it was quite depressing. That certainly turned out to be the case. While it’s not one of my favourite films from Chan-wook Park, it’s incredibly well made and gripping from beginning to end.

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I do think that the plot of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is one worth knowing as little as possible about before watching. All you need to know is that it is a revenge movie and concerns someone (with the help of his girlfriend) who was fired from his job, who then decides to kidnap the daughter of his former boss in order to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant. You really should not look into the plot beyond that especially with the turns that the story makes. Something that some people will notice immediately is the rather slow pacing. Everything is built up rather calmly over the course of the movie especially in the first act, but none of that time is wasted at all. That time is used to set up the world and characters of this movie with incredible care and attention. It is quite absorbing and helps create a strong atmosphere as the situation in the plot gets more intense. What you’ll also notice is that the tone is dreary, gritty and overall sad, with almost no moment of happiness. The movie really is a classic Greek tragedy, and a real gut punch of a thriller, flipping the idea of a revenge film on its head. There’s just a large chain of tragic consequences and brutal reactions throughout the entire story, you don’t really know which of the two main characters to really root for. It deals with many subjects and themes that are incredibly heavy and dark that are present throughout the movie. It is certainly less pulpy and energetic than Oldboy, Park’s next movie after Mr. Vengeance, and there isn’t even a clear-cut villain here like there was in that movie. With that said, it still manages to draw you into its characters, story and world, and keeps you intrigued enough to see how everything ends. I really liked the ending and how everything was concluded, and it was as unflinchingly grim as I expected. The only problem I had was a flashback and narration which was used to explain something, when I didn’t think that it was needed. It’s a small thing but it took me out of it because up until that moment, the story did well at letting you understand what was happening with the story without having to spell it out for the audience.

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The acting is truly spectacular from everyone. The two lead roles of Park Dong-jin and Ryu are performed by Song Kang-ho and Shin Ha-kyun respectively, and their work here is truly phenomenal. Both incapsulated their characters so well and made them truly believable and compelling.

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Park Chan-wook is a great director and his work in this movie doesn’t disappoint. While I wouldn’t put this up there with some of his other movies like Oldboy or The Handmaiden, it’s spectacular. The cinematography is stunning, whether it be capturing a brightly coloured room, or a grungy or dirty location. It really fits the tone of the story. The movie can be very gruesome too, don’t expect any exciting action scenes, it’s unflinchingly brutal and hard to watch at times (as intended).

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not a fun movie in the conventional sense. However it is a great movie for sure, the story is grim and hard to watch but compelling, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from the leads. You do need to go into the movie with the right mindset, but I think it’s worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Park Chan-wook’s other movies.

Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) Review

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Barking Dogs Never Bite

Time: 106 Minutes
Cast:
Lee Sung-jae as Ko Yun-ju
Bae Doona as Park Hyun-nam
Kim Ho-jung as Eun-sil
Byun Hee-bong as apartment maintenance man
Director: Bong Joon-ho

Frustrated with loud barking, an academic (Sung-jae Lee) wages war against dogs in his apartment building.

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Barking Dogs Never Bite was one of the movies from writer/director Bong Joon-ho I had left to catch up on. Out of those few movies however, this one didn’t look that interesting to me. One was a monster movie (The Host), another was about a hunt of a real life serial killer (Memories of Murder), another was a murder mystery (Mother), but this one seemed to be something involving dogs, I just didn’t really know what it was supposed to be. I wasn’t really expecting much, and having seen it I can confirm that Barking Dogs Don’t Bite is by far Bong’s weakest movie, not necessarily bad, just okay.

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To put things bluntly, if you don’t like seeing bad things happening to dogs in movies, don’t bother watching Barking Dogs Never Bite. Now the violence towards them is quite clearly fictionalised but nonetheless if that sort of thing bothers you in movies, it’s not going to work for you, and you’re not going to last long with this one. The writing is a bit of a mixed bag. There are aspects that are good, and it was good enough to have me willing to watch from beginning to end. It just didn’t interest me all that much, and it’s quite a while before you figure out what this movie is really all about. I also wasn’t invested with any of the characters, least of all the protagonists. The fact that they’re not particularly likable wasn’t necessarily a problem, but they just weren’t very interesting people to follow. Even some of the supporting characters outshone them, though they weren’t great either. With that said, Barking Dogs Never Bite does have its moments, you can see glimpses of elements that would later appear in later Bong movies, mainly with the themes, the dark humour and the dialogue.

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As I said previously, the characters aren’t all that interesting, especially the leads played by Lee Sung-jae and Bae Doona, however both actors do what they can in their roles and give good enough performances. The supporting cast with the likes of Kim Ho-jung, Byun Hee-bong and others also do fine enough on their parts.

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The biggest strength of the movie is of Bong Joon-ho’s direction. Even for a debut film, his work is pretty strong here. Now it’s not on the level of all of his other movies, and it’s a little rough around the edges, especially when it comes to the editing. However, on the whole it’s quite well made, with some unique creative choices that really stood out. Barking Dogs Never Bite is very clearly an independent and smaller movie, and while you definitely feel the lower budget, some of the filmmaking techniques still managed to shine through at points, and there are a few sequences that are quite good.

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Barking Dogs Never Bite is one of those debut films from critically acclaimed directors that you might check out if you’re a big fan of their movies. Outside of people interested in Bong Joon ho’s movies though, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to other people. The cast are decent, and it’s directed quite well (with that being the one aspect that was carrying this movie), but I just couldn’t get into the story or characters, and it was mostly a drag to watch. Overall, not a bad movie, but just okay enough.