Saturday, 10 December 2011


There is nothing cryptic about today's title, it is simply the original Korean title for the movie we're looking at. This movie has been hailed as one of the greatest international movies ever made and it stands at number 92 on IMDb's Top 250 films. It's considered the best film in the loosely connected 'Vengeance Trilogy'. So is it up to the hype that surrounds it? We'll see. Today, we're reviewing Oldboy.

The movie opens with a mysterious man dangling another man over the edge of a building by his tie. When asked what his name is we cut away to Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) in a police station, very drunk and out of control. He is picked up by No Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji) but soon lost at a phone booth. Dae-su Oh wakes up in a room. He has no idea who has trapped him here and he has no idea why. He spends the next fifteen years trapped in his little room with only a tv for company. He begins to train, build up his strength, and find a way to escape. He swears vengeance on whoever trapped him and when he is finally out of the room he goes on a journey to find the truth. With help from Joo-hwan and Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang) he begins to unravel the mystery surrounding his capture.

The low prices at Oldboy hotel literally had people fighting for rooms.

All performances in the movie are outstanding. Min-sik Choi is outstanding as Dae-su. His emotions are gritty and raw. It's absolutely captivating to watch him from start to finish. Not only is his tantrum in the police station one of the funnier scenes I've seen for a long time, his brutality which verges on insanity is horrible to watch yet impossible to look away from. At some points you'll like him, some points you won't, and some you'll just be shocked by him. It's brilliant. As an antagonist, Ji-tae Yu is fantastic as Woo-jin Lee. He has a perfect balance between psychotic and plain evil. He's got enough of a human side to develop a tiny bit of sympathy for him but  mainly he's crazy and cruel.

What really stood out for me in this movie was the technical side of things. Chan-wook Park really knows what he's doing as a director. Everything is perfectly timed. Everything looks perfect. Everything is perfect as far as the technical aspects are concerned.  The fight scenes, particularly the long corridor fight, are spectacularly shot. The corridor fight scene involves a huge number of guards against one man. The first camera shot shows us how small the corridor actually is. The next one is a an extremely long single shot that follows the fight down the side of the corridor. It's incredible to watch. The use of sound in the film is also brilliant. Often music (or more often silence) will juxtapose what's happening on screen. It creates a really eerie atmosphere that works wonderfully with the explicit nature of the film.

Some people thought Dae-su had a fear of lifts. He didn't He was scared of women.

Overall, this film is definitely not for the faint hearted. While it has funny moments, they are completely outweighed. There's even a tooth-pulling scene, something that really makes me wince. However, it is a great movie and well worth a watch... if you can stand it. And pay attention. It twists more than a roller coaster.

Best Bit? It has to be the corridor fight scene. Cinematic brilliance as well as wonderfully choreographed.

P.S. It looks like a western adaption of this has been announced. Spike Lee is set to direct and Josh Brolin to star. While I know not all adaptions and remakes are terrible (Infernal Affairs - The Departed) I still don't like how many of modern films are remakes or western adaptions or reboots of already great movies or franchises. But then again, it may be awesome. We'll see. Perhaps it'll look something like this:

Josh Brolin as Dae-su?

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