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Oldboy (21-Nov-2003)

Director: Chan-wook Park

Writers: Jo-yun Hwang; Chun-hyeong Lim; Joon-hyung Lim; Chan-wook Park; Garon Tsuchiya

Keywords: Action/Adventure, Revenge, Hypnotism

Oh Dae-Su is imprisoned for 15 years in an illegal private prison, never informed of his crime nor how long he will be kept. Upon release, he is given five days to determine who his captor was and the nature of his crime. Quirky, violent and intense South Korean revenge film done in surrealistic style. Plot holes and improbability will bother some viewers, particularly the reliance on hypnosis, but the faults can be overlooked.

REVIEWS

Review by anonymous (posted on 6-Apr-2005)

Fantastically insane revenge melodrama about a man in his forties (Min-sik Choi in a delirious performance) who, after being held captive in a cell-like room for fifteen years, is suddenly and mysteriously released. His goal: To find out who had incarcerated him for so long, and why. To reveal anything further would be criminal, for one of Oldboy's joys is its twisty turny plot. The story itself confuses at times, but one by one, the odd kinks work themselves out, even though they require the audience to believe in a little mumbo-jumbo, and even as the film's ultimate moral remains obscure. Much has been said about this film's so-called ultraviolence - there was a minor uproar when it won the Jury Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004, thanks to a festival jury headed by none other than Quentin Tarantino -- but it's overblown. I've seen far worse in most Martin Scorsese movies. Outside of one gruesome dental torture scene and some grisly theatrics at the end of the film, the cruelty in Oldboy is all psychological. (Indeed, I have not seen so much pure sadism outside of Lars von Trier's canon.) But Park handles the dark, sometimes sickening proceedings with grace: There is little flash and dazzle to the film, its physical violence muted, its pace often quiet, its visual look - carefully composed shots, long takes - very much in line with the classical stylistics of Asian cinema. But in the middle of it all you have Choi's wild, take-no-prisoners performance as a man suffering from endless quantities of dementia. In the end, Oldboy winds up turning the goals of the revenge film on its ear, becoming more about the meaning of sacrifice than the worth of vengeance. It's not a great film, but it may be an influential one. (The American remake is already in the works -- hooray for Hollywood.)


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