The Vengeance Trilogy is not a true trilogy in the sense that it tells a continuous story over three films. Instead it is a collection of three films by Park Chan-wook that all deal with revenge, violence and salvation.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Ryu is deaf-mute who works in a factory to support himself and his sister who needs a kidney transplant. As Ryu attempts to raise the money for the transplant by any means necessary, things start to go wrong. The story is one of doing what is necessary to make things right, even if that means bringing more violence into the world. The violence is raw and uncompromising, but is done through great storytelling and cinematography so you are pulled in and don’t want to look away.
Oh Dae-su is a everyday business man with a wife and daughter. One day he is kidnapped and locked in a run down hotel room. He has no contact with the outside world, except for a television in the room and a small slot in the door through which fried dumplings are delivered as meals. Fifteen years later he is set free, given a new suit, a cell phone and the diaries he kept while imprisoned. He beings his journey to find out who took 15 years from his life and get his payback. The story is a psychological journey that explores what happens to a man in dire situation and what it will cause him to do.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
Lee Geum-ja is a newly released prisoner who was convicted of killing a young schoolboy when she was only 19. As she goes and meets a number of her former cellmates we learn that is innocent of the crime she was convicted of and gave a false confession. Though a series of flashbacks we are presented a better understanding of her evolution while in prison. This helps explain her actions since her release and how she goes forward with her plan to seek revenge.
I was introduced to trilogy the by first watching Oldboy two years ago and was blown away by the story and how it was all presented. It remains my favorite, but that may be in part because it was a purer experience and I went into the others ready to compare. I enjoyed Oldboy on many levels and really enjoyed the hallway fight scene and the chase scene towards the end.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance does not have all the twists and turns of Oldboy, it does what Park Chan-wook set out to do and present a story of escalating violence and murders. The film included some of the most bad-ass killings I have seen in a film as Chan-wook always has individual characters working for their end goal and they get creative as guns are rarely present.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance felt much different than the other two films. Revenge is presented in a much more emotional light. This is about more than just getting revenge. This is a calculated process that all fits into place in order to bring closure. The fade to black and white is an amazing effect. The change is so subtle at times you forget it is happening and are drawn into the scene. Then in the back of your mind, it represents the slow and deliberate way in which the mood changes.