Movie Reviews 276 – Oldboy (2003)

oldboyThink you had a bad day? Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik) had a worse one. He got drunk on his daughter’s birthday, got hauled of to the police station, spent a few hours there and when he was finally released with the help of a friend, he got kidnapped before the night was over. But things got a lot worse when he woke up…

His kidnap escapade ended up being fifteen years in confinement. Fifteen years without any contact other than a tray of food being slid under the door of his small apartment looking cell. Fifteen years of wondering who his captor(s) were. Fifteen years of vowing vengeance. Fifteen years of trying to escape.

Somewhat mentally unstable with nothing more than television as a companion all those years, he finally escapes and is taken in by young store clerk Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung). After a momentary culture shock, he enjoys a brief reprieve from pain a suffering. But he no sooner begins the task of tracking his abductors that he learns his torment is far from over. He has in fact been purposefully allowed to escape. His tormentor is still breathing down his neck and the two have a cat-and-mouse game as the stakes rise.

But what are the stakes? Not satisfied with mere taunting, threats of a return to imprisonment or torture, Dae-Su isn’t even concerned with that any longer anyhow, his enemy wants much more from him. But the who and why are for Dae-Su to puzzle out. When the truth is revealed, Dae-Su only then comprehends the form of his punishment.

Oldboy is the ultimate revenge movie, the final reveal being something much worse than Dae-Su’s imprisonment. He should be so lucky.

While the violence and action sequences are what propel the movie, the pathos takes over with the truth at the end. Not a movie that you’re going to forget any time soon.

I had mixed feelings for director Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, but he knocks it out of the park (pun intended) here. He considers Oldboy as part of a ‘vengeance’ trilogy that includes his films Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance, the features he directed respectively before and after Oldboy. Going to have to keep an eye out for these as well.


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