Vengeance Trilogy: Park Chan-wook Revenge Duality

Park Chan-wook’s The Vengeance Trilogy: Exploring the Dark Depths of Revenge

Park Chan-wook’s The Vengeance Trilogy, consisting of the films “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” “Oldboy,” and “Lady Vengeance,” goes beyond a typical revenge narrative. These films transcend the boundaries of conventional storytelling by exploring into the complex layers of revenge with unparalleled brilliance. By examining the duality inherent in seeking vengeance, Park Chan-wook crafts a cinematic experience that is both deeply unsettling and morally thought-provoking.

The Rebirth of Revenge Movies

The genre of revenge films is not a novel concept. We are all familiar with the formulaic structure of a protagonist seeking justice after being wronged. However, this formula has become tired and predictable over time, with few exceptions that manage to revitalize the narrative. Despite occasional deviations from the norm, the revenge tale has largely remained stagnant. That is until Park Chan-wook emerged with his Vengeance Trilogy, consisting of three entire films dedicated to exploring the moral complexities and intricate duality of revenge.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance: The Chaos of Revenge

Park Chan-wook’s first film in The Vengeance Trilogy, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” immediately establishes his unique stylistic approach. The movie follows Ryu, a deaf factory worker desperate to save his dying sister. When he becomes entangled with organ dealers and kidnapping, a tragic chain of events unfolds, leading to multiple acts of revenge.

The film presents interconnected revenge stories that blur the lines of morality. Ryu seeks justice against the organ dealers, Dong-jin seeks vengeance against Ryu and his girlfriend Yeong-mi, and finally, Yeong-mi’s allies seek revenge for her death. Park Chan-wook portrays revenge as an ever-expanding web of cause and effect, a cycle of brutality driven by man’s insatiable thirst for justice and closure.

Oldboy: Layers of Retribution

“Oldboy,” the second film in The Vengeance Trilogy, catapulted Park Chan-wook to global recognition. The story revolves around Oh Dae-su, who is mysteriously imprisoned for 15 years and then released. As he uncovers the reason for his captivity, the film showcases the dual perspectives of revenge.

Oh Dae-su is consumed by his desire for retribution, spending years fantasizing about his captor’s punishment. On the other hand, the antagonist, Woo-jin, meticulously orchestrates a masterplan to avenge his sister’s death. “Oldboy” highlights the purpose and means of seeking revenge, showcasing the two sides of this destructive force.

Lady Vengeance: The Painful Choice of Righteous Vengeance

In “Lady Vengeance,” the final installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, Park Chan-wook takes revenge to a new level. The film follows Lee Geum-ja, who is wrongfully imprisoned for 13 years. Upon her release, she embarks on a mission to track down and kill the man responsible for the death of a young boy.

However, as Lee Geum-ja discovers the true extent of the perpetrator’s crimes, she relinquishes her personal vendetta for the sake of those who suffered more. She allows the parents of the victims to exact revenge and finds solace in the bittersweet justice they deliver. This poignant conclusion underscores the duality of revenge, illustrating the contrasting motivations behind seeking retribution.

In Conclusion

Park Chan-wook’s The Vengeance Trilogy transcends the simplistic and one-dimensional portrayal of revenge typically found in films. It presents a grim and morally ambiguous world where every action has consequences, and the boundaries of justice blur. These three films provide a deeper examination of revenge, exploring its multifaceted nature, the dual perspectives of the characters, and the conflicting emotions that drive them.


1. Are the films in The Vengeance Trilogy connected in terms of storyline?

The films in The Vengeance Trilogy are thematically connected, exploring the concept of revenge from different angles. While they do not share a direct narrative continuity, they are bound by their exploration of vengeance and the moral complexities surrounding it.

2. What sets Park Chan-wook’s films apart from other revenge movies?

Park Chan-wook’s films stand out due to their exceptional storytelling and stylistic choices. He delves deeper into the psychological and emotional aspects of revenge, presenting multi-layered narratives and complex characters. The duality he infuses into the stories adds a thought-provoking dimension to the genre.

3. Are these films suitable for a high school audience?

The Vengeance Trilogy contains mature themes, explicit violence, and disturbing scenes. It is recommended for a mature audience due to its intense nature and morally challenging content.

4. Can these films be appreciated by those unfamiliar with the revenge genre?

Absolutely. While The Vengeance Trilogy subverts some of the traditional revenge tropes, its thought-provoking nature and skillful storytelling make it accessible to audiences who may not typically gravitate towards the genre.

5. What legacy has Park Chan-wook’s The Vengeance Trilogy left behind?

The Vengeance Trilogy has had a profound impact on the revenge genre and influenced subsequent filmmakers. Its exploration of revenge’s duality, intricate narratives, and morally ambiguous characters have cemented the trilogy as a timeless and definitive work in cinema.