Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Korean복수는 나의 것; RRBoksuneun Naui Geot; lit. "Vengeance Is Mine") is a 2002 South Korean thriller film directed and co-written by Park Chan-wook. The film stars Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu, a young, deaf-mute factory worker trying to earn enough money for his sister's kidney transplant by holding the daughter of a wealthy man for ransom, and the path of vengeance that follows when the plan goes awry. Alongside Ha-kyun, the film's cast includes Song Kang-ho, Bae Doona, Han Bo-bae, and Im Ji-eun.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Promotional release poster
Hangul복수 나의
Hanja復讐는 나의 것
Revised RomanizationBoksuneun Naui Geot
McCune–ReischauerPoksunŭn Naŭi Kŏt
Directed byPark Chan-wook
Produced byIm Jin-gyu
Written byPark Chan-wook
Lee Jae-soon
Lee Moo-young
Lee Yong-jong
StarringSong Kang-ho
Shin Ha-kyun
Bae Doona
Music byBaik Hyun-jhin
Jang Young-gyu
CinematographyKim Byung-il
Edited byKim Sang-bum
Studio Box
TMS Entertainment/Seoul Movie
Distributed byCJ Entertainment
Tartan Films
Release date
  • March 29, 2002 (2002-03-29)
Running time
129 minutes
Box officeUS$1,954,937[1]

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance did not fare well commercially upon its initial release in South Korea,[2] and has garnered mixed reviews. Despite this, it won several awards. It is the first installment in director Chan-wook's thematic Vengeance Trilogy, and is followed by Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005).


Ryu is a deaf-mute man who works in a factory. His ailing sister is in desperate need of a kidney transplant, but Ryu's is not a match. After he loses his job, Ryu contacts a group of black market organ dealers to exchange one of his kidneys for one that his sister can use. However, the dealers disappear after taking Ryu's kidney and severance money.

A legitimate kidney donor is found, but after having been conned by the organ dealers, Ryu is unable afford the operation. To raise money, Yeong-mi, Ryu's radical anarchist girlfriend, suggests kidnapping the daughter of the executive that fired Ryu. They observe the executive with company president Park Dong-jin arriving at the latter's home one day, where one of Dong-jin's employees, Peng, attempts to commit harakiri in front of them. Ryu and Yeong-mi change their plan, deciding to kidnap Dong-jin's young daughter Yu-sun.

Yu-sun stays with Ryu's sister, who believes that Ryu is babysitting her. Ryu and Yeong-mi send a request for ransom to Dong-jin, and he obliges. Upon returning home with the ransom money, Ryu discovers that his sister learned that Yu-sun was kidnapped, and committed suicide.

Ryu takes Yu-sun and his sister's body to a riverbed they frequented as children to bury her. Distracted by the burial and unable to hear, Ryu is unaware when Yu-sun slips into the river, and she drowns. After Yu-sun's body is discovered by authorities, a deeply mournful Dong-jin hires an investigator to find her kidnappers. Dong-jin finds Ryu's sister's corpse by the riverbed, interacts with a mentally disabled man who witnessed Ryu burying his sister, and begins to piece together the identities of Ryu and Yeong-mi.

Ryu, armed with a baseball bat, locates the organ traffickers and murders them, receiving a stab wound in the process. Meanwhile, Dong-jin finds Yeong-mi and tortures her with electricity, also killing a deliveryman who comes to her apartment. She apologizes for Yu-sun's death but warns Dong-jin that her terrorist friends will kill him if she dies. Unfazed, Dong-jin electrocutes her to death. Ryu returns to Yeong-mi's apartment and sees the police removing her corpse.

Dong-jin knocks Ryu unconscious with a booby trap. He takes Ryu to the riverbed where his daughter died, dragging him into the water, slashing his Achilles tendons and waiting for him to drown. After Dong-jin dismembers Ryu's corpse, Yeong-mi's terrorist associates arrive. They stab Dong-jin, pin a note to his chest with a knife, and leave him to die.


  • Song Kang-ho as Park Dong-jin, Yu-sun's father and the President of a manufacturing company who is a friend of Ryu's employers
  • Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu, a deaf-mute factory worker trying to pay his sister's hospital bills
  • Bae Doona as Cha Yeong-mi, Ryu's girlfriend of several years
  • Han Bo-bae as Yu-sun, Dong-jin's young daughter
  • Im Ji-eun as Ryu's sister, who is in need of a kidney transplant
  • Lee Dae-yeon as Choi, the investigator hired by Dong-jin
  • Ryoo Seung-bum as a mentally disabled person at the lake
  • Ryoo Seung-wan as a food delivery person at Cha's apartment
  • Oh Kwang-rok as an anarchist
  • Lee Kan-hee as Park Dong-jin's ex-wife
  • Jung Jae-young as the husband of Dong-jin's ex-wife


Box officeEdit

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance opened in South Korea on March 29, 2002 and had a worldwide box office gross of US$1,954,937.[1] The film received a low-profile North American theatrical release from Tartan Films beginning August 19, 2005, over three years after it debuted in South Korea. In its opening weekend, it collected US$9,827 (US$3,276 per screen) from three New York City theaters. It played on six screens at its most widespread, and its total North American box office take was US$45,243.[1]

Critical responseEdit

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 54% based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 6.16/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Though Park directs with stylistic flair, this revenge thriller is more excessively gruesome than thrilling."[3] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 56/100 based on 21 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4]

G. Allen Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film "a waste", referring to it as "so bloody, scatologically violent and consistently shocking, [that] it seems to have no larger purpose than itself -- which is pretty grim."[5] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote that "it is a drag that the film never rises to the level of its director's obvious ability", stating that "the violence [in the film] carries no meaning beyond the creator's ego."[6] Daniel Eagan of Film Journal International called the film "glossy, morbid and childishly provocative", praising its visual style but criticizing director Chan-wook's "curdled vision".[7] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune wrote: "[It] is a rigorously planned film. It's also a disingenuous one, somber in tone, callow at its core."[2]

Derek Elley of Variety called the film "a gripping psychodrama, marbled with blackly ironic humor".[8] The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave the film a score of three out of five stars, calling it "deeply twisted and bizarre" but noting its "weirdly nightmarish conviction."[9] Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe gave the film a positive review, calling it "a pristine-looking movie with astounding framing and a deftly handled sociopolitical bent", and concluding that, "despite the coldblooded killing and trail of the dead, Mr. Vengeance feels warmly suffused with life."[10] In her review of the film for The A.V. Club, Tasha Robinson wrote that Chan-wook's "style is as bold and uncompromising as his story, which seems designed to show how revenge dehumanizes more than it satisfies, even for people who wholly deserve revenge. [...] It's a difficult balancing act, but Park crafts his layers carefully and masterfully."[11]


2002 Busan Film Critics Awards[12]
2002 Chunsa Film Art Awards
  • Best Music - Baik Hyun-jhin and Jang Young-gyu (UhUhBoo Project)
2002 Korean Association of Film Critics Awards
2002 Korean Film Awards
  • Best Cinematography - Kim Byung-il
  • Best Editing - Kim Sang-bum
  • Best Lighting - Park Hyun-won
2002 Director's Cut Awards


In January 2010, Warner Bros. acquired the rights for an American remake of the film.[13] Brian Tucker was attached to write the screenplay, to be produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian, in a team-up with CJ Entertainment.[14][15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b Phillips, Michael (9 September 2005). "Elegant facade hides dark heart". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  5. ^ Allen Johnson, G.; Curiel, Jonathan; Addiego, Walter (26 August 2005). "Film Clips / Also opening Friday". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  6. ^ Dargis, Manohla (19 August 2005). "A Child Is Kidnapped and an Explosion of Shocking Violence Ensues". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  7. ^ Eagan, Daniel (19 August 2005). "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance". Film Journal International. Archived from the original on 2 December 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  8. ^ Elley, Derek (28 March 2002). "Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance". Variety. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  9. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (29 May 2003). "Sympathy for Mr Vengeance". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  10. ^ Morris, Wesley (28 October 2005). "'Mr. Vengeance' is a deft and grisly crime thriller". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  11. ^ Robinson, Tasha (16 August 2005). "Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Sympathy for Mr Vengeance". Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  13. ^ Barton, Steve (7 January 2010). "Warner Has Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance". Dread Central. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  14. ^ Fleming, Michael (6 January 2010). "WB wants Vengeance". Variety. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  15. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (20 May 2013). "Cannes: Park Chan-wook's Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance Getting Remake". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 18 July 2014.

External linksEdit