Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vengeance Trilogy

I remember when the only way you could see one of these pictures was on an import DVD (my original copy of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a region-3 disk out of Hong Kong). How gratifying, then, to have a box set like this, boasting a whopping eight disks! There's also a glossy collector's booklet featuring production stills and essays by Hollywood insiders like Eli Roth and my boy John Kreng (Fight Choreography: The Art of Non-Verbal Dialogue).

The feature disks all have commentaries (three different ones in the case of Oldboy) and, this being an eight-disk set, there's a veritable smorgasbord of extras. Since Sympathy opened to less than favorable reviews (following director Park Chan-wook's more crowd-pleasing Joint Security Area, its ultraviolence was off-putting to audiences), its extras disk is the leanest. That said, we're talking several making-of featurettes, cast interviews, storyboards, stills, trailer and a profile of director Park Chan-wook by Brit talk show host Jonathan Ross. Yeah, that's the "skimpy" extras disk.

By the time you get to Oldboy, it's insane. Oldboy was such an international phenomenon that, in addition to the standard array of DVD extras, there are featurettes about the phenomenon itself (like Le Grand Prix at Cannes, a short documentary about the splash the film made at the renowned French film festival). There's a solid two disks worth of extras for Oldboy including five making-ofs, interviews, deleted scenes and a 3-hour video diary.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (or simply Lady Vengeance as it is called here) is similarly well-endowed with additional features, as well as an alternate, director's cut version of the film.

I reviewed all three films in the Vengeance Trilogy in Asia Shock, so I'll leave it to you to check that out for my own critical take. Upon obtaining this new box set, I took the opportunity to watch these films again, and seeing them all together I came away with a greater appreciation for the first film, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. In retrospect I think it is probably the finest of the bunch. I found greater appreciation for it's subtle, artistic touches in contradistinction to the manga-esque outrages of Oldboy (as great as they are).

In any case, do I really need to tell you to go get this box? If any one box contains the essence of "asia shock," it's this one.

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