Movie Title: Oldeuboi / Oldboy
Date Released: November 21st, 2003 (South Korea)
Date Seen: 2012
For the review of the 2013 American adaptation, click here.
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
This is the most commonly viewed film of Chan-Wook Park’s “Vengeance” trilogy. It is pretty commonly accepted to be the best of the three films as well. It focuses around a man, Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) who has been imprisoned for the last 15 years. Granted, he’s been kept in a kind of hotel room, given food every day, and allowed to watch a TV. But once he is let out, he is on a war path trying to find out who imprisoned him and why. He will do anything to find out who did this to him and what happened to the family he left behind (a wife and a baby daughter). The movie is fairly long but keeps you engaged the entire time. This is mostly due to the fact that the whole movie is a mind fuck. You really never have any idea where anything is going. If you’ve never seen the movie – try to go into this movie without finding out the ending. It will make it 1000x better. It’s still an amazing movie if you know the ending, but if you don’t know it, the movie will be so much more awesome.
There’s a TON of violence in this movie – sexual violence and just plain old knocking out a guys teeth out with a hammer violence. The interesting thing about the violence is how tension filled the movie is, without showing you too much actual gore. The knocking the teeth out scene shows you the hammer going down, and you hear the noise but don’t actually see most of it. Sometimes leaving it up to your imagination is so much worse. In this case, that is true. There’s also a lot of pretty brutal hand to hand violence, but if you’ve already seen Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, you shouldn’t really be surprised by the amount of brutal violence. Possibly the most memorable or well known scene is the best hallway fight scene in any movie ever, with Oh Dae-su just kicking ass after ass. It’s a very realistic fight too, with everyone attacking him at once. Sometimes in large group fights only one person attacks at a time, but not in this case. I even like it better than the Raid: Redemption hallway scene, if you’ve seen that. It’s brutal violence, but you have to give it to the man – he’s been locked up for 15 years with no reason as to why and nothing to think about other than his revenge and finding out who did this to him.
Another thing I love about this movie is the villain, Lee Woo-jin (Ji-tae Yu). He has a very Hannibal Lecktor quality about him – in that you like him. He is pleasing to the eye, charming, very intelligent, and always one step ahead of you. You feel dirty that you like him, but it’s true. There is a recurring theme in this movie of things that look pleasant on the outside but are really terrifying on the inside. The most obvious example are the purple present boxes, beautifully wrapped, shiny, and gorgeous, always clearly standing out against the background. But they are always horrible inside… In the words of “Se7en”, “WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!”. Woo-jin is another example – seemingly charming on the outside, while we know he isn’t exactly what he seems.
Definitely watch this movie, if you’re a fan of revenge, interesting thrillers, Korean film, or just really like well thought out movies.
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review/Synopsis
There’s an OK synopsis here. It leaves out a lot of the little things that goes on and really should just be used as a refresher course as to the general jist of the movie.
One of my favorite parts about this movie is the surreal mind fuck moments. The ant on the train is an obvious one, but other moments such as the prison scenes are pretty insane as well. The repetition of lines throughout the movie further creates this strange ambiance throughout the film – making even the most serious of scenes turn into a surreal moment. Even the colors add to this effect – they’re hyper-saturated reds, oranges, and greens (the prison, Mi-do’s apartment, fight scenes), or under-saturated blues and greys (the snow scene, and Woo-jin’s apartment).
I think the reason that this is the most widely viewed of the films (other than the fact that it’s the best FILM of the three) is because it’s action packed, full of violence, and mind-fucky with a really good plot all at the same time. The other two movies in the trilogy move a little slower and have less violence (well, different types), and lack the surreal element to this film.
Definitely the best film of the Vengeance Trilogy, but my 2nd favorite in the trilogy. Tons of violence, drama, amazing plot points, and surrealist elements.