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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Comedy > Martial Arts Cycle > Fantasy > Korea > Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy (2002/03/05/Old Boy/Lady Vengeance/Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance/Asia Extreme Palisades Tartan Blu-ray Boxed Set)

Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy (2002/03/05/Old Boy/Lady Vengeance/Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance/Asia Extreme Palisades Tartan Blu-ray Boxed Set)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: B-/A/A     Films: B/B+/B-



Director Park Chan-wook is responsible for creating the thematic series that has come to be known as the Vengeance Trilogy.  Through recurring actors, ideas and various other stylistic choices, there are bonds that distinguish them as a connected series of works.  It can be surprising, then, that in spite of these connections and with the central idea in each being much the same, that each film can retain a unique identity.  But I find that they do work, and that each film plays to different strengths.


At this point in time, these Blu-ray editions of the films are not available for purchase separately, so you'll have to get them as a package deal or not at all.  Aside from the cardboard slipcase (older copies were a Best Buy exclusive and housed in a metal tin), a smaller version of the booklet that was included with the DVD set has been transplanted to this release as well.  A brief suspension of Tartan production as it switched owners is part of why.


The trilogy began in 2002 with the film Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance.  The story focuses on the laid-off and desperate Ryu who is preparing to sell a kidney in order to receive another one that will be a match for his dying sister.  He strikes a deal with a group of organ dealers who in turn steal his kidney and his cash.  In a desperate bid to get the money he needs, he hatches a plan to kidnap the daughter of the man who fired him.  Things go from bad to worse for Ryu in short order, and the consequences can be comically grim.


Extras are the same as those found on the Vengeance Trilogy DVD edition, and include a subtitled audio commentary with Park Chan-wook and fellow director Ryoo Seung-wan.  There are also four featurettes, a trailer, storyboards, and an excerpt from the soundtrack accompanied by stills from the film.


This film was followed up a year later with what would end up being the director's most well known work to date, Oldboy.  Quentin Tarantino would prove to be a major champion of the film, and his enthusiasm was a catalyst for the warm reception that the film received in the U.S. at the time of its release.  In the film we follow Oh Dae-su, a man abducted and confined to a single room for 15 years without ever knowing his captor or the reason for his punishment.  Without explanation, he is one day led outside and given five days in which to solve the mystery of his imprisonment and attempt to exact his own revenge upon the man who kept him locked away for so long.


Extras on the original DVD included a single commentary track from Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon, an interview, 9 deleted scenes, a photo gallery and theatrical trailer.  This Blu-ray disc adds to that with 3 audio commentaries, 10 deleted scenes with optional director commentary, cast and crew interviews and a La Grand Prix at Cannes featurette.  Also included is the 3 hour video diary, The Autobiography of Oldboy.


Lastly, in Lady Vengeance, Lee Geum-ja is released after serving a 13 year prison sentence for a crime she did not commit.  Now that she's out, she'll be getting even with the murderer she did time for.  The film is the weakest of the three, but still worthwhile all around.


The extras here are quite extensive and port over everything from the DVD set, including both the original and “Fade To White” versions of the film as well as three audio commentary tracks on the first disc.  On the second we have a making of featurette, several on camera interviews with Park, deleted scenes, poster gallery, and trailers.  I personally felt that the Fade To White version's digital color removal was unnecessary, and that the gradual loss of color wasn't totally apparent until the very end of the film.


The Blu-rays are all in 1080p and are anamorphically enhanced with 2.35:1 aspect ratios.  Each title has a Korean 5.1 DTS-HD mix as their primary audio source, which I found to be quite good, although Oldboy also has a 2.0 Dolby track and a horrendous English dub, which is available in Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.  The excellent look of both Oldboy and Lady Vengeance is largely thanks to the cinematography of Chung Chung-hoon, although Kim Byung-il's work on Mr. Vengeance stands on its own and gives the film a unique appearance.


I recommend checking this set out, as there's not a dud in the bunch. If you're not a film-goer who is typically interested in Asian cinema, Oldboy was previously available stateside as a 2-disc Blu-ray, and if you can find a copy, it would be the one to get your feet wet with if you're leery of going too far in.


For more on the Trilogy, try this link of the DVD version which has more links:





-   David Milchick


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