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Sang-hyun, a priest working for a hospital, selflessly volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to eradicate a deadly virus. However, the virus eventually takes over the priest. He nearly dies, but makes a miraculous recovery by an accidental transfusion of vampire blood. He realizes his sole reason for living: the pleasures of the flesh.
Park Chan-wook is an amazing director.
Review by Ginose
Added: November 25, 2009
Virtually every movie in his filmography is an acclaimed gem and he's managed to keep suit up until now and then some. The "Vengeance Trilogy" has been praised throughout almost all circles in the world of cinema; his short works have been a continuation of such wonder. Each film has as wonderful a visual style as it does writing, plot, pacing, acting, etc. and he's yet to break this suit.
This is, of course, due to the fact that he's directed relatively nothing. Mention how wonderful the "Vengeance Trilogy" is and you've already mentioned nearly half of his work. So, yes, they are all gems, but they're so rare that we have nothing to really worry about, thus far. He's showed no signs of decline because he rarely gives us enough to go on. Is this bad? Not necessarily, but it does keep people like me heatedly awaiting each release of his. I am still kicking my ass over not seeing "I'm a Cyborg, but That's Okay", and I clung to the opportunity to see "Thirst" when my dear lady found it, and we both decided it to be a good night of viewing; and, as if it came as ANY surprise, we were both right.
Sang-hyun is a priest who, in an effort to try to do some good in the world, agrees to be a test subject for a vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus; this, failing miserably, does nothing more than infect and kill him. Attempting to save his life, the doctor's give Sang-hyun a blood transfusion during his surgery, only to give him blood infected by something else: vampirism. Trying to readapt his life as a priest with his newfound infamy as the blessed-priest who survived (the only one of five-hundred) and slowly learning of his new abilities. He attempts to stick to a life at night, meeting with his old school friend, Kang-woo, and his family, joining them for weekly mah-jong games and slowly, but surely, growing into his vampiric desires. Learning more of them as he learns more of Kang-woo's miserable, lonely wife Tae-ju, whom, herself, is feeling more and more of this strange attraction she has towards Sang-hyun.
Sure, this sounds like it's really falling into this recent uptake into the world of popular vampire romance, but I can DAMNED-well tell you that there is essentially nothing in common between Park's latest works and this recent uprising in rovamptic-dramas (God, I hope that term hasn't caught on) aside from vampires and... well... romance. Truth be told, this takes the very classic approach to the vampire mythos in its entirety, but still manages to put that twinge of humanity into it. It certainly didn't touch the mortal-sin of completely humanizing the vampire, no, it still approaches them as, deep-down, being heartless killing machines that view humans as cattle to feast upon, but not without the moral qualms of a human still dealing with his faith as, well, a human. This INSTANTLY sparks huge points from me, as I cannot tell you how much the Anne Rice vampire movement has broken my spirit in the genre. The romanticized image of the vampire must be broken, I tell you, as it's doing less-good for the world of the cliché romance and more harm to the world of horror. My two-cents, but I feel I needed to get that thought out of the way before I discuss the technical merits of this film.
Story and style wise, Park has hit another one right out of the fucking... eh... park... The story is so fresh and so well assembled; it never once dabbles for too long in any real aspect of the story, providing grounds to show the characters' developments without making it feel boring or lacking. Really, the biggest problem probably IS its refusal to stay the course with any particular part. This makes some of the sequences feel a bit rushed, overall, and, at times, had me scratching my head wondering how the fuck we got to Kang-woo's "coming between" the couple and, eventually, the final 30-minutes. I'm not going to try to talk it down, either, simply because it's the biggest flaw, it can tend to be a serious problem, but this seems like a serious writing error, rather than an error on the films behalf.
Visually, this is one of the man's greatest works. Every set and scene has such a perfect design and, mixed with the actual story and a lot of the, rather gruesome, imagery, it paints a perfect setting for this sorrowful (though, often rather hilarious) tale of love and the war between a man's belief and a man (vampire's) nature. Spectacular lighting and use of color are already tokens of Chan-wook's style and this may be the most impressive use of it yet, from the rooms of Sang-hyun's hospital to the "day-room" he builds in the latter of the film, I found myself smiling happily at each piece of eye-candy offered and gobbling it whole; since his earliest works I've been able to say this about each film of his I've seen, and this applies to so few more so than this one.
Acting is, again, in his familiar suit, excellent. I will, of course, give special credit to Shin Ha-kyun (Kang-woo) for painting a hilariously obtuse brilliance to the boorish, childlike behavior of his character. He had me laughing in each scene throughout, especially in his later appearances, I don't think there was a better cast character aside from Song Kang-ho (Sang-hyun), who showed a remarkable palate of emotions through his characters long, often very painful, journey into his new existence. I truly didn't see a weak-link from anyone in this film, and, damn, I won't lie, I tried. There's really very precious little I can take away form this movie.
So, in summation, this is the perfect vampire-romance, despite some glaring pacing issues, throughout. If you're dying for a GOOD take on the sub-genre, some proof that vampires are still, technically, horror material, or are just interested in a good, gory, fun yet sympathetic look at the life of a vampire then this is a choice that I can advise above most anything you'll catch on the market here in the states.
I truly cannot advise this one enough.
- added 11/26/2009, 04:13 PM
Excellent review, Gino... I concur wholeheartedly
with your analysis for the most part.
A lot of his more "oblique" pacing
devices are all present in his earlier films as
well... you just may have simply accepted it
because his earlier films had more of a direct and
driving plotline than this more meandering tale.
Look back over "Oldboy" and especially
"Lady Vengeance" again and you'll notice
that there are more than a few "what the...
how did we get here?" moments to be found as
well. It's just that some of his more allegorical
imagery becomes slightly jarring when it is
shoe-horned so tightly between seriously realistic
or dramatic scenes. Is it a weakness... or just
the man's trademark? Interesting...
I'm SO glad someone found this as refreshing as
I did... I hate being the only one on the
This is easily as arresting as
"Let the Right One In" for completely
different reasons... and was one of the most
entertaining films I've seen this year!
An unreserved 9/10... makes the Twilight films
seem like sophomoric garbage... with glitter
sprinkled on it.
- added 12/01/2009, 10:44 AM
No, no... I just watched "Oldboy", and,
though it may be because of the plot, it's
assembly was anything but irrelevant. Meandering
or not, there were just a trifle too many of those
moments; I did notice alot of them in "Lady
Vengeance", and I haven't seen "I'm a
Cyborg, but That's Okay", but it seems this
will become more reccuring in his more visually
Could it be BECOMING a
trademark? Possibly, but I hope not. It really
drowns the script when I see so many of them in a
single 2-hour length.
- added 12/01/2009, 05:29 PM
I never said the jarring scenes were
irrelevant... just a bit distracting from the
clean narrative at points and they tend to slow
It's much more noticeable in
his later work as he grows more confident and
feels more able to challenge his viewers.... at
least that's how it seems to me.
There are a couple of moments even in Oldboy
that could have done with some trimming (IMHO),
but I'd rather have that sort of experimentation
Sympathy for Mr.
Vengeance seems the sleekest of his films to me,
storyline-wise... and it still clocks in at a
muscular 122 minutes and explores two differing
perspectives of the same story within it;) He's
just got a really quirky sense of progression that
seems to be getting... well... more odd... as he
doesn't bother me overmuch... it's just not always
to my taste. But then again, if those are the
extent of my complaints regarding his films... I'm
HAPPY to have them as long as he continues to
crank out such innovative told and beautifully
Or,.. to put it in proper
perspective; one needs only think of how Hollywood
would have depicted the scene of him leaping from
building to building with the elfin Tae-ju in his
- added 12/02/2009, 12:42 AM
Hmmm... I can see what you mean, if you consider
the direct approach and assembly of "Sympathy
for Mr. Vengeance" angainst "Lady
Vengeance", but, again, I feel that it only
seems to rear its head when he has more
visualy-striking works going on. Taking
everything he did prior to the
"Vengeance" trilogy into account,
perhaps it is just him experimenting with the
pacing-per-scene ratio, but I noticed he'll only
do it when the opportunity to provide something to
LOOK at (as opposed to something to WATCH) can
fill the whole of a scene. Taking the
dream-sequences in "Lady Vengeance" as
the biggest example, the lack of anything actually
going ON in them is easily ignorable when the
composition and beauty of the shot is noted.
Sometimes it works really well, but sometimes it
doesn't. There are just too many
"doesn't"s in his recent works, and I
find that it will probably be happening more and
more as his style starts to develop.
I'm not going to complain, either, until he
gives us a bad film. Up til now, he has not, so I
can more than happily hope he keeps doing whatever
- added 12/04/2009, 01:08 AM
I guess we'll just have to wait and see,
In the meantime, keep those
great reviews a'comin'!
- added 12/30/2009, 06:18 AM
I thought it was a fairly decent movie, but
nowhere near perfection. The pacing was the real
problem here, as the running time clocks in at
over two hours and... well, there's not two hours
of material here. Tighter editing would have
worked wonders here. Still, decent movie, so I
think a 6.5/10 works.
- added 12/31/2009, 01:04 AM
I agree it was a bit overlong... but did that
alone warrant a 6.5, Chad?
What else didn't
you like about it?
curious, you see... I like the Director's work so
much that perhaps I might have missed something in
my fanboy stupor;)
- added 12/31/2009, 09:04 AM
I'm a huge fan of Park as well, so I wasn't
exactly going into this blind. I knew what I was
in for, and I was expecting to be blown away.
The fact that the film is two hours long
without two hours of material is the thing that
hurt it so much in my eyes and the reason for the
6.5. There are scenes here that are completely
irrelevant and would have been best viewed in a
"deleted scenes" section of the disc,
and some of the scenes that were necessary were
just too padded (look at the sex scene - damned
fine scene, required for the plot, but way too
long). The ending of the film is yet another
example: perfect way to end the story, wonderful
idea, but padded to the point where what should
have been an emotional scene becomes almost
comical (I was waiting for the woman to break out
an umbrella after her previous fifty ideas didn't
pan out). Showing her fighting her fate?
Acceptable. Showing her trying so many things?
- added 12/31/2009, 09:28 AM
Interesting... I interpreted that sort of almost
comical desperation to be a bit of last minute
humanization of a fairly monstrous character
towards the end of the film.
I think that
those last scenes gave an almost childish sadness
to the proceedings that would have been simply
I agree about the
films length... that's for sure... but I think
that the amazing moments of the film FAR outshone
(is that even a word?) the more bloated passages
and that your practically mediocre assessment of
the film is still a bit jarring. I'd give the
film over a 7 just for the incredibly creative and
unromanticized approach to vampirism Park took...
and that beautifully restrained initial building
leaping scene! And in what other movie do we get
to see the lead actor smash the nose of the female
But what do I
Anyway, I'm just glad you didn't hate
- added 06/15/2010, 02:20 AM
A bit slow on a few parts, but i enjoyed the
majority of the film. 8/10