Directed by Chan-wook Park.
Written by Chan-wook Park. Based on the Japanese manga "Oldboy."
Starring Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu and Hye-jeong Kang.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 4/11/05
It won the Jury Grand Prix at Cannes last
year, and I've been excited about seeing the Korean import "Oldboy"
for some time now...and, this past Saturday, I got to see what all
of the fuss is about.
The kind of film that will only get better
with age, "Oldboy" follows a man named Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) that
is initially thrown into a residential prison for 15 years without
having any idea what he has done wrong. Going slowly insane
while in this prison, he plots only to get revenge on who or
whatever has placed him there, since he has no clue as to what got
him there or how much longer he will be in the cage. After
spending what seems like years digging a hole through his cell to
get out of the building, he gets almost all the way there when he is
simply granted his release one day and thrown out into the world
with a few clothes and even fewer clues as to how he should start
his search for truth.
That search takes him everywhere, and it's
this search that makes the plot such fun to follow. As he is
given small clues along the path for justice, Dae-su meets a woman (Hye-jeong
Kang) that gives him some assistance, a man (Ji-tae Yu) that is in
touch with Dae-su's oppressors and a friend from high school (Dae-Han
Chi) that may be one of the few people that can help. Then,
halfway through "Oldboy", the filmmakers tell you who is running the
show, and Dae-su is given five days to figure out the mystery.
The ending is something for the ages, the kind of ending that leaves
you with the dropped jaw effect and that smart ass next to you that
has to say "See, I KNEW it!" even though there's no way he could
I went to see this with Ross and his
ladyfriend Anne, and all of us came out with the same thinking--"Oldboy"
is solid. The filmmaking is extraordinary; it's a violent film
(that's just how it goes in Korean film) but so stylishly made that
it gets away with it. What other film can say that it's got
excruciating torture scenes and beautiful moments of serenity?
A fist-fighting number that runs for almost two minutes, and by the
end of it, you are laughing? A suicide victim that falls from
ten stories into a parked car...and, you feel worse for the dog he
was holding when the psycho made impact?
It's got a little action, a lot of story, a
"whoa" ending and endlessly great moments. We as Americans
don't do so well watching another man eat eel, so watching Dae-su
consume a plateful of the live stuff is excruciating but awesome.
Dae-su will eventually come to face why it is that he was imprisoned
for so long...and that why is one of the great twists in recent
memory. Little things, like child actors that really do look
like they could grow up to look like their adult counterparts,
struck me as out-of-the-ordinary. The film's score was kooky;
the constant close-ups of Dae-su looking completely insane work
wonders as you are coaxed between feeling sad for this guy and
thinking that the director is mocking Nicholson from "The Shining."
"Oldboy" even has a decent share of laughs, which is great
considering how depressing some of this could have been.
I don't have one bad thing to say here--"Oldboy"
is a fantastic film. It will only be showing in major cities
but if you live in one, check this bad boy out before somebody blows
it for you.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard