REVIEWED BY-STEVE GENIER DIRECTED BY-CHAN-WOOK PARK CAST-KANG-HO SONG, HA-KYUN SHIN, DU-NA BAE, JI-EUN LIM, BO-BAE HAN, SE-DONG KIM and DAE-YEON LEE. SOURCE-TARTAN/ASIA EXTREME COLLECTORíS EDITION DVD (2005) PAL R0.
Ryu, a deaf mute who is laid off from his factory job, recently finds out that his sick sister needs a kidney transplant. When he is told that his blood type does not match and that cost and time of finding the right kidney is beyond his reach. Desperate to help his sister, Ryu seeks out a groups of organ dealers and strikes a deal with them. He offers up one of his kidneys in return they find one for his sister, along with 10 million. The shady group performs the operation, but live Ryu high and dry, taking his kidney and all. With a strange twist though, a matching kidney turns up at the hospital, but with no money, Ryu must find away. Together with his close friend they devise a plan to kidnap Ryuís bossí daughter in return for a ransom. As they put the plan into action, everything works out in perfect detail until after they receive the money. From the death of Ryuís daughter to the very unexpected death of Park Dong-jinís, Ryuís bossí daughter, things are set in motion for the perfect setting pieces of vengeance. As justice has failed on two separate accounts, they end results clash until only one triumphs, but for how long?
This multi-layered storyline from OLDBOY director Chan-wook Park is a prime example of just how slick and entertaining his work really is. Itís incredible how a director can change the pace of a filmís storyline so drastically through the midway point, making it feel like you have just began another film entirely. All this without making you lose anything you have already retained from the first half, as it comes back with "like the title suggests" vengeance. I just canít give total credit to VENGEANCEíS storyline, sure it is the main vehicle, but the characters are what driving that vehicle. Parkís ability to build up each character even the lesser players are stark reality at itís best. I canít think at one point does the characterís and their situations donít ring a certain reality. Of course, not only are the characterís buildups gaining all the glory, but itís the ability of the actors playing them with complete respect and dedication. Something that isnít easy for a director to get out of film.
I must point out the two leads in this case though. Kang-ho Song who I had the pleasure of seeing in the 2004 based on a true story thriller MEMORIES OF MURDER. Song, had gained weight to play the lead in the film and his acting range was just so incredible, I thought it would have been hard from him to top. That I was wrong with, at least until I finally set eyes on VENGEANCE. I have seen many Korean films, but I have yet to see an actor who has been able to capture my attention as much as Song. He is certainly one to keep an eye out for. Sure, he has been around since the mid-90's and did make abit of a name for himself in SHIRI and then later with JSA, but those are his priming up for some classic performances such given in both VENGEANCE and MEMORIES OF MURDER. The fire in Songís protrayal of Park Dong-jin is without a major stepping stone for him to top. The range he was able to illuminate going from one extreme to the next and given total realism is a true mark of a great actor. The other being Ha-kyun Shin who plays the deaf mute Ryu. Yet another fine example of an actor being able to give his all at the right time. This role wasnít an easy one for sure, going their the full stretch without talking only given sign language is certainly a job well done. Of course the training he went through to learn and to home his character of Ryu is as equally as hard, but it all shows off through the duration of VENGEANCE.
Though this plays out like a drama and one made to believe it is, I must warn those who are weak in the knees and queasy in the stomach. There are several graphic scenes that in my opinion, without would hinder the overall efforts that the VENGEANCE is conveying. In order to pass a message that is extreme, you must push things to the limit, something director Park has done with complete style and effectiveness. All is not about the gory details here though, there is plenty of well executed situations as well. Like mentioned earlier, Parkís ability to cut and paste a superb non-linear approach is much in the vein of a Tarantino film. Though most of the film is pretty much linear, Park throws in sections of non-linear build ups that drive the overall storyline more effectively. Giving it a more gritty, more surrealistic approach, something that goes against the grain as you will with the overall realism of the characters. This is an important factor though as we live are lives, there are moments when we ourselves go through patches of surrealism.
The Tartan UK/Asia Extreme DVD. Titles as a special edition is just that. Decked out in anamorphic wide-screen 1.77:1 and pumping out those superior visuals is an equally as superior Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean audio with English subtitles. Though there are a few variations as the disc also includes DTS-ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround as well. Either way this disc has some nice vibes for sure. Along with the rest of the audio selections, you are also treated to an audio commentary from director Park Chan-Wook as well, something that is quite nice given that fact that this is a Korean film in an English format. There is a behind the scenes section as well, which is quite interesting as it is always nice to see the going ons behind the camera. Also the original trailer, author and BBC reviewer Jamie Russell film notes as well as an Asia Extreme trailer reel. All in all if you are decked out with a multi-region player, this is certainly the disc to buy for this particular title.
STORY-4 BITCH SLAPS PICTURE-4 BITCH SLAPS AUDIO-4 BITCH SLAPS EXTRAS-3 BITCH SLAPS OVERALL DVD-3.5 BITCH SLAPS
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