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Oldboy

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

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"Whether it be a grain of sand or a rock, in water they both sink alike"

  • May 16, 2010
Rating:
+5
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 who, at the start of the film is seen drunk, being held at a police station waiting for his friend to pick him up and take him home. Suddenly Dae-Su goes missing and wakes up a few days later locked in a room with no knowledge or where he is or why he's there. He is locked in captivity for 15 years and is released without warning. Driven mad by his own solitary confinement, upon release he immediately sets upon a mission to find his captor and discover the reason for his imprisonment. 

While out he encounters a young girl named Mi-do, a sushi chef who takes pity on him and brings him into her home as he has nowhere else to go. Dae-Su, discovers that his captor is an old school friend by the name Lee Woo-Jin and the reason behind the imprisonment is that Dae-Su never kept his mouth shut and spread a rumour that destroyed Woo-Jin's family. Driven by the passion for revenge against Dae-Su, he looks to destroy Dae-Su in the same way that the rumours destroyed him. 

The film itself takes on a comic book style of storytelling, darting from one scene to the next whilst consistently narrating the story to explain exactly what's going on. The character of Dae-Su is a fairly complicated one, but turns into a sort of anti-hero movie as he moves from one depraved and sadistic act to the next in order to find the answer to the question of why. Park Chan-wook does a splendid job of directing this and it's something you can really get into, once you have become used to following the subtitles and the on-screen action simultaneously. 

The acting is superb, especially that of Choi Min-Sik (Dae-Su) as he portrays a man driven mad by his captivity and his own passion for revenge superbly. The main antagonist, Lee Woo-Jin, played by Yu Ji-Tae is played so well, the character itself is as disturbing as I'm sure he was intended to appear. Almost too cool and calm to be the villain of the piece, I found myself expecting something more behind the whole scheme as he certainly did not initially appear to be the man who would be behind this torture of Dae-Su. 

Overall, this is simply a masterpiece of Asian Cinema and it is unfortunate, in a way, that the only real way we would get movies this masterful in the west, is if they were independent films that would ultimately not get the exposure they would deserve because the premise and outcome of the film aren't commercial. The worst news possible, relating to this film, is that there was a planned American remake and would undoubtedly poison the brilliance of this absolute masterpiece by putting a pointlessly optimistic spin on the story. Thankfully, it doesn't look like this will be happening, so I would strongly recommend this for the purposes of witnessing brilliant storytelling very rarely seen.

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May 17, 2010
I couldn't have said it better myself! excellently done, Steveo! Have you seen the whole Vengeance trilogy? You are also more than welcome to join us at the AsianFlixFix community  (which I also founded) since I see you have an appreciation for Asian cinema...If you liked this, you may want to check out the featured topic there....
 
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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
Caption
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 …
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
Caption
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 …
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 …
About the reviewer
Steven Stewart ()
Ranked #93
Currently studying Law at University, my main interests revolve around Politics. I read quite a lot and love learning about History. Not just the history of a specific time, place and person, but I'm … more
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Wiki

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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Details

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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