Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a South Korean film, and the first part of Park Chan-wook’s “Revenge Trilogy” (it’s a trilogy in terms of theme, the stories don’t connect). While Old Boy (2003) is unquestionably more famous, I believe that Sympathy is the superior film.
It is very rare for me to see a film, and be left speechless. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is as much a tragedy as it is a revenge story, maybe even more so. While I’ll admit, I’m not a very good judge of acting unless it’s very good or very bad, none of the actors were bad. Song Kang-ho (who played Park), in my opinion, particularly stood out.
The violence is over the top sometimes, but it is by no means obtrusive nor is it detrimental to the movie as a whole.
The movie stands out due to its story. In almost every revenge story, from Hamlet to a Liam Neeson action flick, there is an obvious bad guy. This villain will often be given some sympathetic aspect, but in the end the audience knows who to root for. Not so in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This is a revenge story about good people who make bad decisions, and the damage those decisions cause to themselves and the people they care about.