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A 2003 South Korean revenge drama based on a manga and directed by Park Chan-wook.

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A Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22

  • Jun 4, 2011
When I look back on great psychological thrillers and great revenge stories there are a number of films that pop into mind... and this is now one of them.
Oldboy is a superbly complex revenge melodrama with a level of action, violence, humor, and eroticism that will get you thinking while your adrenaline is pumping. The film is a masterpiece that won't be forgotten because there isn't anything quite like it. If I had to compare it to another film or source material I'd say think about combining West of Zanzibar, Se7en, Memento and throw in a bit of Freud's Electra Complex, and what you might wind up with is something similar to Oldboy. That may seem like an eclectic and perhaps even odd comparison, but Oldboy is a film that is hard to explain without giving away what makes it so special.

The film tells the story of a former womanizer named Oh Dae-su who after a drunken night out with a friend disappears before his young daughter's birthday and wakes up to find himself a captive in a closed off environment. Locked within a small apartment where he has no contact with the outside world save for a TV set and brief moments when he can hear the men outside his room bringing him fried dumplings, the only food he is given while trapped. While there he learns that his wife has been murdered and as he has been missing he is now the prime suspect in the police investigation. To make matters worse his young daughter has been sent off to live in foster care and he may never see her again. Oh Dae-su is drugged, psychologically tortured, hypnotized, and over time is driven to a state of psychosis. His suicide attempts prove unsuccessful as his captors release gas into the room causing him to lose consciousness and then restoring him to health against his will. 15 years go by and Oh Dae-su has learned all the he can from the TV, including how to fight, and his will to survive is dependent upon two needs: to escape and to get revenge.  Mysteriously Oh Dae-su is let go without explanation and he begins his search for who captured him and why, all the while trying to find out who it is that he has become during his years of imprisonment. It's not long before he meets a young sushi chef named Mi-do and he enlists her as help on his journey of self-discovery and vengeance. But things aren't at all what they seem and he realizes that he may now be tracking down a monster from his own past, a monster who also seeks revenge and will go to any means to manipulate Oh Dae-su into taking a path that will lead him to his own destruction, physical and psychological. When the revelation is made and he finally discovers the truth, the whole truth, Oh Dae-su is so horrified that he is willing to do anything to forget what he has learned and what he has done.

The film is tonally unique as it doesn't really belong to any one genre and it transitions between moments that are extremely dark and disturbing to action scenes that are stunningly choreographed to moments of humor that give us insight into the characters. Here in America, films tend to follow a single formula based upon the genre in which the story belongs, but in this film, a Korean film, all formulas are at once mixed together and subverted at every step.
It's been a long time since I saw a film where I was just completely blown away by how many different elements were brought together so skillfully to tell an engaging, compelling, and harrowing story about characters who are so driven that they forget what it is that they really want and who it is that they were. Oldboy is one of those films that manages to do this and it does so in a grand style, both visually and thematically, that give it an almost epic quality.

The acting is top notch and I was especially blown away by Choi Min-sik, who gives one of the most complicated and challenging performances I've ever seen by any actor. He is at times funny, at times compassionate, at times monstrous, and at times so heartbroken that he seems to be collapsing from the inside out.

In terms of the execution of the film, Park Chan-wook's direction is fantastic as he spends time working on the five essential aspects of movie making (story, characters, themes, narrative, and visuals) and he excels on all levels giving every character and every detail time to evolve and mutate into something devastatingly violent and simultaneously beautiful in its raw emotion.

This is a must-see film!
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June 11, 2011
Sounds like an amazing film!
June 11, 2011
It is. The revelation near the end is going down as one of the most disturbing twists I've seen in a film. So powerful!
June 12, 2011
Sounds intriguing! Not sure when/if I will view this one anytime in the near future, but I look forward to a disturbing and twisted ending.
June 05, 2011
This film is one of the best to ever hail from Asia! I am surprised you just saw this one. awesome film! Thanks for the marvelous QT! will send you Mr.vengeance next week...
June 05, 2011
Yeah, well, like I've said before, our rental stores around here suck and the only other place to get movies is Walmart. Not a lot of options so I wait for DVDs to go on sale online.
June 05, 2011
it is amazing how the Walmarts here would carry this flick and not in some other state. I guess they all do market research and this doesn't fit your area.
June 05, 2011
All Walmarts suck, but Walmarts in rural areas are even worse.
More Oldboy reviews
review by . May 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     Few films go as in-depth into the concept of revenge as Park Chan-Wook's "Oldboy" does. There are so many revenge films out there to the point where every one kind of feels run-of-the-mill, even for what it is; but this film just isn't like those movies. In fact, "Oldboy" is unlikely to feel like any cinematic experience you have ever had. It evokes emotions; both tender and cold-bloodedly dark, out of its audience, and by the end, it has drained us like …
Quick Tip by . November 26, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
Park Chan Wook's 2nd film in the Vengeance trilogy is one of the best films ever conceived, in Korea, and anywhere else in the world. Truly a gripping, riveting, contemporary classic that won numerous international film awards. This is a tale of revenge taken to the extreme, Park artfully blends repulsive elements into something truly poetic and beautiful with an ending that is so different and filled with visceral impact. Park is one of the best writer/directors of this age.  See …
review by . May 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A movie driven by madness is the shortest and best way I can sum up this film as it seems to be a plot focusing around which man can be the most insane; the one seeking revenge against his captor or the one who has done the capturing. I will need to be careful as the way the film's structured, in order to really tell anything of the story, I may have to spoil a few important moments of the movie so you have been warned.       The story focuses around a man known as Dea-Su …
review by . December 21, 2008
posted in ASIANatomy
U.S. dvd
      OLDBOY is the 2nd installment of Park Chan-Wook's vengeance trilogy that is loosely based on the Japanese comic by Tsuchiya Garon and Minegishi Nobuaki. I use the term "loosely" because the plot, characters and almost everything else is completely re-worked for the big screen. I've read that Park saw his film; "Sympathy with Mr. Vengeance" a sort of commercial failure, so he comes back with an effective counter-attack. Oldboy made me re-think …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
You can bet that if and when they remake this in Hollywood, it won't have anything like the punch in the gut that this one delivers.
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
By far the most graceful, yet brutal, of Park Chan-Wook's vengeance trilogy, though Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is a close second and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is still quite the respectable film. Seriously, I loved this enough to get a tattoo from it.
review by . October 20, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Lots have been said about this film. It is neither a classic nor a flop. After seeing this film last night I found it to be pretty good. There's no reason to bash this film because it does deserve to be rated moderately. When rating a film I ask myself what the film is giving the audience and what the message that the director is pushing across.     Like Sympathy...Oldboy is another film concerned with the theme of revenge but on a first glance, seems a little more straightforward …
review by . January 17, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
I popped Oldboy into my DVD player expecting to see a pretty decent movie but I got something way past that. First do not buy this film expecting to see a martial arts or action packed film because this is not packed it's just the right amount to keep you interested. There's more torture than fighting as you see Oh dae-su seek the ultimate revenge after being kidnapped and held for 15 years and then for some crazy reason he's let go.     By this time your probably thinking Oh …
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In the realm of revenge thrillers, you'd be hard pressed to find more ultra-violent vengeance and psycho thrills than in the creepy story ofOldboy. This Korean import made a pop splash at the Cannes Film Festival and during its limited theatrical run thanks to the imprimatur of Quentin Tarantino, who raved about it and its visionary director, Chan-wook Park, to anyone who would listen. It's easy to see why QT fell in love with the grindhouse attitude, fast-paced action, violent imagery, and icy-black humor, but it's a disservice to think ofOldboyas another Tarantino homage or knockoff. The darkly existential undercurrent in the themes thatOldboytraces over its life-long narrative arc is much more complex and deeply disturbing than anything of its kind. The movie's tagline is, "15 years of imprisonment... 5 days of vengeance." The imprisonee is Oh Dae-Su, an ordinary Joe who is snatched off a Seoul street corner and locked away in a dank, windowless fleabag hotel room for the aforementioned 15 years. Just as abruptly he is released, and thus the five days begin. Why did this happen to Oh Dae-Su? Ah, but that would be telling, and in fact we don't know ourselves until the final wrenching scenes.

Oldboy breaks into a classic three-act saga, the first of which details the hallucinatory period of imprisonment in which Oh Dae-Su wades from mild insanity to outright psychosis in the hands of unseen yet attentive captors. Act 2 is the revenge, when an ...

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Director: Park Chan-wook
Genre: Action, Drama, Foreign, Thriller
Release Date: November 21, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: August 23, 2005
Runtime: 120 minutes
Studio: Tartan Video, Show East, Vivendi Entertainment
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