Monday, 5 December 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2005: Min-sik Choi in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Min-sik Choi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Mr. Baek in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is stylistic and oddly upbeat, well at compared to its predecessors Oldboy and especially Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, about a woman Geum-ja (Young-ae Lee) seeking revenge against the man who caused her to be wrongly imprisoned for a murder she did not commit.

Old Min-Sik Choi plays the man responsible for Lady Vengeance's sorrows, but he's not actually in the film all that much. In fact I'd say Choi's casting is part of director's Chan-wook Park's way to reference the previous two films in the thematic trilogy, as the leads of Mr. Vengeance Kang-ho Song, and Ha-kyun Shin play mere cameo roles as a pair of hitmen. Choi, the former lead of Oldboy, gets a slightly more substantial role as Mr. Baek the target for revenge. We only get glimpses of Baek for much of the film, pieces of Geum-ja's mind essentially, whether it is of Mr. Baek threatening her daughter, a fantasy of killing him as a dog, or a brief moment where we see him teaching a class through song. I'll admit that last scene does work quite well in creating a disturbing image, as there just seems something off when Min-sik Choi does it. In fact to his credit Choi is such a compelling actor that he manages to at least standout despite the extreme limitations of his role. There just something so innately magnetic about the way Choi works the screen that is always so impressive.

Unlike the targets of the previous two films, who also were motivated by revenge in some way, Mr. Baek is much more a disposable baddie, who we only learn is a child murderer and a rapist in addition to framing Geum-ja. We get again just few glimpses as he attempts to mount his defense, and to be fair Choi exudes menace with such as per usual. He is quickly caught though, and we finally get a bit of that Choi goodness, though not a lot of it. There's a particularly effective scenes where Choi isn't onscreen, yet does add a great deal to the scene as a kidnapped Mr. Baek translates messages into English for Geum-ja. Choi finds nuance within this such as his initial scoff when she threatens him, and his eventual fearful sigh as he begins to understand the severity of his situation. Baek has no hidden plans or tricks up his sleeve though, all his has left are a few words. Choi does his best to make the most of them. I especially love Choi's sleazy, "haven't seen you in awhile", reaction when he first see Geum-ja, as though Baek is attempting to try to not take her seriously.

This changes to fear when it is clear she is very serious, and again Choi probably far more compelling than any other actor in the role could be in portraying the physical fear and eventual pain throughout the scenes. Baek only get one more moment to himself, before his disposal, when one of the parents of his victims asks him why he did it. Choi does his absolute best with this being so beautifully despicable by so casually playing the moment as Baek shrugs off with "nobody's perfect". I'll admit I was a little disappointed with the allowance for Choi here, you can never have enough Min-sik Choi, but he's good with what has. The thing is though the film is more a revenge procedural than a thriller, in that everything basically works for the lady, rather than the terrible back and forth found in the other films in the trilogy. Again this is a good performance by Min-sik Choi despite the limitations, but in the end it feels like a warm up act for his turn in I Saw the Devil.


Luke Higham said...

I'm rather surprised by the rating.

And Jimmy Kimmel's hosting the Oscars next February.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Rating and thoughts on Lee Young-Ae

Varun Neermul said...

Thoughts on the film and the rest of the cast (Cast ratings as well)

Anonymous said...

I cant wait for the next year!!!!

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I'd quite like to see 1993 or Pre-1928 next.

Louis Morgan said...


Lee - 5(I pretty much loved her performance as her work reminded me of Choi in Oldboy, as she brought that same kind of energetic madness of sorts into her performance, particularly within the physicality she brings to the character. I especially found it impressive how easily she aged and deaged in the film, in that she seemed to do with almost no makeup, rather just in the way she carries herself. She also takes this rather remarkable ability in crafting the various faces of the Lady. When she is called the "angel" she absolutely earns the title, as she becomes absolutely luminous with this endearing gee whiz quality when she's in full manipulation mode. She's able to switch that in a moment though to a real menace when she plays the idea of her being a killer, and is absolutely convincing whenever she makes a threat. Beneath it all though she is very moving in portraying just the wounded woman, who in the end is very sadly going about her task, knowing she'll never wholly recover what she lost from the ordeal.)


The film itself I think does get a bit indulgent at times yet I still found it rather captivating, Park's direction feels like its own character at times. The style is wonderful in itself yet I did not think it overwhelmed as I found that in the end it emotionally resonated still.

Everyone else does their part and are basically a collective three, with just a few exceptions who fall into a very particular type of overacting.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Ricky Gervais.

Louis Morgan said...


He can be hilarious, usually if he is dealing with things more modestly I find, or is more self deprecating. When he does more egotistical style humor I find his act gets old fairly quickly.

94dfk1 said...

I actually haven't heard much about Dehaan since The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out. Hopefully Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets turns out closer to The Fifth Element rather than Jupiter Ascending for him.

I fully expect a Matt Damon bit at the Oscars, for obvious reasons lol. And he's also a producer for Manchester by the Sea.