Oldboy – Brutal And Thrilling

Oldboy – Brutal And Thrilling

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  1. Sex and violence seem to intersect on a regular basis in film… probably because sex sells and violence usually implies action which also sells.  In Chan-wook Park’s 2003 violent thriller, Oldboy, sex and violence are at the heart of it.  Oldboy is based on a Japanese Manga (comic book) written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi.  It also has an American remake in the works to be directed by Spike Lee.

    What is it about?

    A regular guy named Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) gets kidnapped and imprisoned on his daughter’s birthday for seemingly no reason.  While in captivity he learns a lot of random facts from TV, learns how to fight by practicing punches and kicks against the wall, and slowly works toward escaping by scraping away at the walls with a chopstick.  After 15 long years, however, he gets released for

    seemingly no reason.  He makes it his mission to find the people that kidnapped him and kill them for what they did to him and the things he learned in prison will prove very valuable.

    As his past becomes more clear to him and he begins to uncover the truth about his captors, he finds out a lot of things he doesn’t want to know.  He also realizes that someone has gone through a lot of trouble to manipulate him and seek revenge for something he did a long time ago.  Then, the actual truth is something that he, nor an audience could have seen coming.

    Is it any good?

    Oldboy keeps you engaged for its entire two hours and will keep you guessing until the very end.  That is a testament to the strong writing.  If nothing else, this story is unique.  At first, it is a little hard to buy into because it’s not clear as to why someone would imprison a man for no reason.  As the layers unfold, though, you will move to the metaphoric edge of your seat and never scoot back.  It’s engrossing.

    What helps this film be so captivating is the oustanding performances by its award-winning leads Min-sik Choi (Dae-su) and Hye-jeong Kang (Mi-do).  Min-sik Choi is especially good, having to show an incredible range and intensity throughout the film.  He actually won Best Actor at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in 2004 for his performance in Oldboy.  

    The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung is also stunning.  Chung’s camera expertly captures the grittiness of the world that Dae-su has to navigate and enhances the brutality of the narrative when necessary.  There are also some surprisingly gorgeous scenes that give a much needed break from the dirt and grime.  Two particular shots stick out as being especially good.  First, there’s a long shot of Dae-su pleading with his captors from the slat through which they feed him while in prison (also a great moment in Min-sik Choi’s performance).  The more impressive shot, though, is a fight scene that lasts about three minutes (that’s just a guess about the time, it could be longer) and involves Dae-su versus at least 20 others in a hallway.  The camera pans back and forth as the fight takes place and never cuts until Dae-su has successfully finished off his attackers.  Epic.

    Overall, Oldboy is a wonderfully done foreign film.  But, being a foreign film, it may not be for everyone.  It is done very artfully but very differently from much of American cinema.  Also, the brutal violence, disturbing nature of the plot, and nudity makes the film a little harder to watch than some films but is certainly worth checking out if you are into the thriller genre or foreign films in general.

    Nolan’s Grade:  A

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