Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Boksuneun Naui Geot
South Korea, 2002. CJ Entertainment, Discovery Venture Capital, KTB Network, Bear Entertainment, Dong Young I-tech, CJ E&M Film Financing & Investment Entertainment & Comics, TMS Comics, TMS Entertainment, Moho Film, Studio Box. Screenplay by Mu-yeong Lee, Chan-wook Park, Jae-sun Lee, Jong-yong Lee, based on the comic created by Myeong-chan Park. Cinematography by Byeong-il Kim. Produced by Jae-sun Lee, Jin-gyu Lim, Myeong-chan Park. Music by Hyeon-jin Baek, Young-gyu Jang, Byung-hoon Lee. Production Design by Jung-hwa Choe. Costume Design by Seung-heui Shin. Film Editing by Jae-beom Kim, Sang-beom Kim. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
Park Chan-wook’s first entry in his “vengeance” trilogy is an involving and deeply moving story whose admirable attempt to get all three dimensions of a dramatic situation is more important than its smattering of logical flaws. Ha-kyun Shin plays a deaf-mute factory worker who has abandoned art school after his sister has taken ill, she was originally working to support his education but her life-threatening disease has flipped their situation. He feels hopeless about the length of time it has taken for an organ donation to become available through official channels, so he answers an ad to buy her one through the black market. It costs him his life savings and, because he’s dealing with shady thieves, he ends up with nothing, then finds himself in need of cash when the hospital informs him that a donation is ready for his sister but he has a week to come up with the cash to pay for it. He and his quirky but darkly imaginative girlfriend (the always fascinating Doona Bae) come up with a plan to kidnap the daughter of his factory’s director (Kang-ho Song) for ransom, then return her unharmed after getting the money. Naturally, these plans, as always, do not go as planned, which adds Song’s trajectory into the film, seeking revenge for what has happened to his family while the object of his rage, Shin, is seeking retribution from the people who robbed him. The humanity involved in this tale of making characters simultaneously villains and victims results in something that captures your imagination and your heart, fearlessly going into some very uncompromising territory in its gory depiction of violence on screen. There are some lapses in logic in the story, at times characters make connections in their information that are not properly explained and a few coincidences are a bit too convenient, but they’re in the service of a much bigger narrative involving class divide, moral righteousness and the tragedy of human life being one where everyone has a price to pay for what they love. Park proved himself popular with Joint Security Area two years earlier, but with this film establishes himself an artist of note.