Foreign Film Review: Oldboy

Oldboy, Oldboy, Oldboy. Yours is a twisted tale. One which can sicken the faint of heart, but bring so much joy to those with passion for a gut-wrenching, suspense filled tale. Oldboy is a winding road of discovery, spattered with action, which eventually brings protagonist, Dae-su, to the realization that is every bit as disturbing as anything I have ever seen, read, or heard.

Background — Oldboy, a Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook, was released in 2003 and is a loosely based film adaptation of a Japanese manga of the same name.

Plot — Oh Dae-su, a Korean businessman, husband, and father finds himself kidnapped and placed in a holding jail that appears to look like a run down hotel room with no access to the outside world other than a television set. After days of yelling and trying to get someone to give him some sort of explanation, he gives up and begins watching his television. Soon after, he learns that his wife has been murdered and that he is the number one suspect. Days turn into weeks, weeks to months, and months to years. The notion that he as been imprisoned for no apparent reason torments him and he often times loses his sanity. Thinking that at some point he may have the chance to escape from this living hell and ensue revenge on his captor’s, he trains feverishly. After 15 long years he is released with no explanation, rhyme or reason. Dae-su begins a quest to find his captors and figure out the reason why he has been imprisoned for the last fifteen years of his life.

The Good —Nothing in Oldboy is taken lightly. The extremeness of the plot and action is the hook. This film will easily have you running the gamut of human emotions. That being said, this movie is also extremely well paced. I often have problems with most action-suspense movies because they contain way too many dead spots, or don’t offer up enough story to keep me glued. This movie has a great balance of action, suspense, and reveals that will keep you on edge and guessing throughout. Ultimately the story is not as complex as it seems, but the mayhem that is distributed to reveal this perceived complexity, is all too appealing.

The Bad — The only bad thing I can see here is the sickness of the plot. Although this is also one of the movie’s strong points. So I don’t know if I can really say if it’s a bad thing. I will say that most people won’t find the scenarios that this movie reveals socially acceptable. But with most movies, how often do we really find the plot socially acceptable? I can’t really go into further explanation here, you just really have to see the movie.

If you read my last review for District B13, then you know I’m strongly opposed to reading subtitles. Fortunately the Netflix version of this movie does offer up an English dubbed audio track. Good that it’s there, but kind of disappointing that it’s poorly done. At first I felt like I was watching an old kungfu movie. Good thing is, as the movie goes on, you barely notice. But as I stated in my last review pertaining to subtitles, I can’t demerit the film for this (albeit the localization staff stands to lose a few points).

Conclusion — All in all, this is a great movie. I absolutely loved it. Because of the plot, I would think that this is not for everyone. But if you love action and have a tooth for good suspense, then this is definitely the movie for you.

Also, there have been rumors of an American-made adaptation of the original Japanese manga for quite some time. Supposedly Steven Spielberg was to head up the project, with Will Smith portraying the role of Dae-su. Seems the US version of the film has been tied up due to legal litigation as explained by AnimeNewsNetwork. Seems the manga publishers and the film makers are at odds over selling movie rights. As of right now, the project is reported to be dead.

A Must See

Comments