Tag Archives: swindled

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

I feel that deep down, if anyone has ever been wronged or hurt in some way by another, they seek revenge in some form on that person. So, you could say, that revenge is a very human thing to pursue and wish to deal out. I would say that’s why these films have been so successful (although box offices mighy say pshaw). After having seen Oldboy in a film class a few years ago, I knew I had to see more of Park Chan-wook’s films. He has a great sense of story and emotion coupled with a visual style you don’t often see in action films.

So I started off Park Chan-wook’s Revenge series at its logical point, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This story follows a deaf mute man named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) who is down on his luck. His sister (Lim Ji-eun) has kidney failure and is in dire need of a new one. Ryu is fired from his job at the factory and now seeks a new way in which to raise the

This was an interesting scene involving a mirror.

money. In finding a black market organ gang, Ryu is swindled and left without a kidney himself. With no other way to raise the money after not being a suitable donor himself, Ryu must turn to desperate measures with his anarchist girlfriend, Cha Yeong-mi (Bae Doona).

Stunning visuals.

What’s most interesting about this movie is the way that revenge and its plot in the film shifts from character to character. You think it’s all about Ryu and seeking revenge against the organ dealers (and to a point, it is). But it turns into something bigger when Ryu’s ex-boss gets involved. What is intriguing about this movie is that everyone has a motive, and usually for good reason. Ryu wants to save his sister and others want to correct past wrongs (don’t wanna spoil the movie). So there’s no definitive bad and good character, and this is even apparent in Oldboy. (Haven’t watched Lady Vengeance yet, we’ll cross that bridge soon.)

Another thing that leaps out at you in this film is an insanely new way of dictating tempo and focus with camera angles and amount of time spent on one shot. Kim Byung-il and the director, Park Chan-wook must have collaborated together to get such a unique style of story telling through showing. In dealing with a deaf mute character, sound was at times taken for granted. At others, sound played an important part, more

Song Kang-ho is one legitimate actor.

importantly what couldn’t be heard. The story fluctuates in such a way that plot mixes with circumstances, and chance happenings lead to development.

More about the visual style. Amazing work with angles you wouldn’t think of. This movie can take a simple handshake shot to a new extreme. It leaves on things you wouldn’t think of as the events unfold from a single angle (one take shots are hard to do…) and tilts the cameras to gain new perspectives. Light and dark shows its place when the characters walk up an abandoned parking structure in an almost comical way. I think the creators of this film really took a brand of their own outlandishly dark comedy and injected it into their film with just visual aspects.

Also touching.

And another important part of this movie. Song Kang-ho who plays Park Dong-jin, Ryu’s ex-boss. When he gets roped into this story, things start happening. It’s not such a quirky action film anymore. The emotions come out and you see the true face of vengeance. Song Kang-ho is an incredible actor, especially by American Cinema actors. You don’t feel like he’s fooling you with his emotions and actions on camera. You feel like you’re actually feeling for another human being. He didn’t have any classical acting training before he started getting involved with acting, but he has done such a wide range of characters that it shows he has depth. A comedic, bumbling, good hearted Dad in The Host. A bloodthirsty vampire priest that I’d like to see in Park Chan-wook’s other film, Thirst. A comedic and tormented thief in The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. And he’s won awards for his work. Get a load of that.

You bring together excellent acting (and I’m talking to the whole cast about this), stunning visuals, and a bit of violence

Who is seeking vengeance on who?

and revenge, and you have an American A+ caliber action film. What’s different though? This one has heart and emotions that put it at drama level. And so far, with having watched this and Oldboy, Park Chan-wook has hit all the good points on the head. He even puts a bit of violence and gore in there for me too. Violence and a great foreign action film? I think this was made for me. 9.3 out of 10.

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I Love You Phillip Morris

This is one of those movies you don’t think much of when you see it first released, but comes back to surprise you. I had no idea how much homosexuality, adult themes, and gay sex would be portrayed in this film. At all. I sat up late the night I watched this, clutching my pillow, wondering if Ace Ventura was really kissing Obi-Wan. It’s not that I’m opposed to the lifestyle and part of the sexual spectrum these characters lay on. It’s just so surprising to see how committed actors can be to a role they’re given. And it can turn out to be the best of performances.

In I Love You Phillip Morris, Steven Jay Russell (portrayed by Jim Carrey) is a local police man and loving husband to his wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann) and daughter. The

Carrey and Mann, a loving couple?

only thing he can’t get over is that his mother gave him up for adoption when he was a baby. In search of his true mother, he finds that she gave him up… and kept her other children.

With his life’s dream fulfilled and ruined all in one fell swoop, Russell is involved in a bad car accident, changing his life around. He resolves to live his life the way he wanted to for so long. And that life he will pursue will be as a gay man. I thought the first angle of this movie, never having read the accounts of Stephen Jay Russell or anything related, was going to be about him being a con man. I didn’t realize he was going to find his homosexual roots before he met Phillip Morris in jail, but that was just my movie plotline brain buzzing. All the more power to him, because his cons and jail escapes were unbelievably top notch.

A little bit of the lavish life for a pair of gay men.

So Russell meets other men, some sexual interaction (AKA butt sex. I must add this scene, although dramatized, shocked the shit out of me.) and he meets his Latino boyfriend, Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro). After his losing bout with AIDS, Russell goes for one last big haul, and gets himself thrown in jail. But that wasn’t before trying to escape in the only way he knew how. Con city, bro.

While in jail, Russell meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). The gentle and noble disposition of Morris changes something in Russell’s deceiving nature changes. He looks out for someone other than his

The moment they meet. In jail. How touching.

own interests and finds true love in a world that had given up on him and his ways. It is at this point that Russell will do anything in order to get Phillip Morris out of jail and to make a stable life for the both of them. As luxurious as that may come off…

What overall impressed me about this film were Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor’s performances. They were so convincing as a loving couple onscreen that you had to root for them, even if one of them was a con man. The kisses felt real, the holding and touching was that of a chemistry ridden couple. And by couple, I mean just any kind of couple. Gay, bisexual, straight, biracial, you name it, they showed the characteristics of two people in love. By the end of the movie, no matter how homophobic the person watching may be, you came to like and accept Russell and Morris for who they are. That’s something that can cross all lines when it comes to the world of movies.

Some of that steamy man love.

The other thing that I loved about this movie were the cons. And based on real cons, as far as I can see. This entire movie was based on Steve McVicker’s novel about Steven Jay Russell’s life entitled, I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks. These cons are so well played out that you could only believe they would work in the movies. Or, in this case, Texas or one of the Southern states. Yes, a slight against Southerners from the liberal movie makers, who knew? But how well and entertaining they were to watch one right after the other. You felt shame for the law enforcers and businessmen by the end of the film for being so able to be swindled.

This movie takes a whole new approach to the con man, and to relationships in general. How far would one of us go to break their love out of jail? To risk it all one something illegal in order to see their love happy and smiling? That is exactly what Stephen Jay Russell did. And the end of the movie let’s us know that he is serving a life sentence under constant surveillance, while Phillip Morris was finally let out in 2006. This movie of the con man, set in the 1980’s and 90’s, really explores an era that was exploring itself. This movie shows the liberation of the man from his chains, both

Good form.

literally and symbolically. And Jim Carrey gave one of his best quirky drama performances in a long time. I love all of his work, and this is another title to notch in his bedpost. Gay con artist. A well deserved 8.8 out of 10.