SYNOPSIS: In-ae, who was falsely charged, is released from prison. Eun-hye, her younger sister, is an 18-year-old high school student with the mental age of a ten-year-old. She adores her sister, who means the world to her. They get together for a small reunion party, and hope for nothing but happiness for them in the future. Next day, however, Eun-hye doesn’t return from school. In-ae reports her missing to the police and asks her teacher for help, but no one seems to care about Eun-hye’s whereabouts. Devastated by this tragedy, and by the society that doesn’t care for the weak, In-ae embarks on an investigation all by herself. She finds out that her sister suffered violence and sexual abuse from school bullies. Not only that, Eun-hye has been passed on from a loan shark, to a massage parlor, then to someone else. In-ae is hot on the trail and will not give up her quest to bring back Eun-hye, but the path leads her to even more shocking secrets from her past: the owners of a convenience store, photo studio, and car repair shop all raped her a few years ago. Now, it’s payback time! To console her sister, to find her, and to survive… In-ae’s brutal revenge begins.
Korean cinema has a reputation for producing solid revenge thrillers from Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy to A Bittersweet Life to The Man from Nowhere. With the exception of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, all featured charismatic male leads that is until Lee Si-young comes along.
If you have yet heard of Lee, try to binge watch the entire season of Netflix’s Sweet Home before No Mercy and judge for yourself if she is worthy to be this decade’s onscreen heroine.
The plotting of No Mercy is easy to follow. It’s not as complex and intricate as Sympathy for Lady Vengeance or as visceral as The Villainess. However, this is not to say No Mercy fares less desirable as compared to the other two. On the contrary, the straight-forward storytelling with some brief flashbacks thrown in at times are enough for audiences to root for Lee Si-young’s character and her motives.
Park In-ae (Lee) is a former bodyguard who has just been released from prison after assaulting a prominent political figure (Choi Jin-ho) years back. At this point, we are unsure what is her motive for assault except that she has a schooling sister, Eun-hye (Park Se-wan) who yearns the company of her elder sister. The slightly mentally challenged Eun-hye is constantly being bullied in school and one day, forced to be a bait for a group of young hooligans who uses her to con unsuspecting men for money.
But when a ruthless gangster, Ha (Lee Hyung-chul) took hold of Eun-hye, she is subsequently sold to a pimp by him. Thus begins In-ae’s tireless journey into investigating the truth behind her sister’s disappearance and upon finding out the tragic happenings Eun-hye suffered during her absence, hell is unleashed.
As the story unfolds and through multiple flashbacks as mentioned prior, we learnt that bullying in school is a serious matter but teachers hardly bat an eyelid. The mentally challenged are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and again, no one likely pays attention to it. In the case of Eun-hye, her penetrators include the neighbourhood’s grocery store uncle to an ordinary photographer to a greasy mechanic. As In-ae fights her way through and that’s where everything comes full circle. The reason why she is sent to jail is finally revealed towards the end.
There are plenty of fights throughout the flick for sure. Brutal but not exactly bloody or intense. If you are looking for a memorable action set piece, we can assure you there’s none. Perhaps the one that has In-ae fighting against Ha in his cramp Ford Mustang counts. Though the fight choreography is not flashy, it showcases one thing- In-ae is not just fighting to survive, she is fighting for her sister and the truth.
No Mercy is an enjoyable revenge action thriller with plenty of scumbags for our dear heroine to deal with at every corner. Although the somewhat ambiguous ending is kind of a letdown, our leading lady Lee Si-young sure didn’t disappoint with her killing looks and moves. If there’s a vacancy for a female John Wick, you know where to look.
Review by Linus Tee