Oldboy (Oldeuboi) (2003)

15 years of imprisonment, five days of vengeance.
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Oldboy - 15 years of imprisonment, five days of vengeance

Second in Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy is the intense and emotional excursion through the imprisonment of Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) in Oldboy. The movie depicts an intricately complex vengeance plot that carefully reveals it's intricacies as the movie progresses, circumspectly explaining the reasons for Oh Dae-su's seemingly harsh treatment at the hands of his unknown captors. The direction of this movie is superb and makes the extreme yet cunningly crafted story express itself as a work of pure genius, hats off to Park Chan-wook even though fans of Korean movies have come to expect this level of competency from his work with the other movies in the Vengeance Trilogy (after Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Lady Vengeance) being equally as gripping. There is an amount of preternaturalness within all of the characters in this movie which can lead to some surreal scenes and this combined with the occasional bout of vicious violence makes this movie extreme although it is far from horror.

The movie begins with a bedraggled yet smartly dressed storyteller requesting some time to tell his tale to a reluctant suicider who he his dangling off of a building ledge. The dishevelled one is Oh Dae-su and the potential floor goo, now undecided about his fate, decides to hear the yarn.

The movie flashes back to a time when Oh Dae-su was an overweight, drunken (and highly comical) businessman happy that he had achieved the middle class dream of mediocrity with his wife, daughter and his non-invasive position in society. After a night of alcohol enhanced crapulence, Oh Dae-su's fuzzy evening takes him safely through a police station encounter but into the commonly alcohol induced awakening in a dilapidated and unfamiliar room. Unfortunately for Oh Dae-su he does experience the usual stirring next to a previously beer-goggle enhanced female but has awoken in the room which is to be his prison for the next fifteen years.

Completely solitary with only a TV for company and fried dumplings for food, Oh Dae-su spends his days shadowboxing, diarising and wondering why he is in this predicament with only the occasional sleeping gas for recreational highs (plus it gives his captors a chance to cut his hair). When Oh Dae-su learns from modern societies greatest teacher that his wife has been murdered and that he is the number one suspect he plans his escape, but just before his cunning escape comes to fruition there is one more hit of sleeping gas and he wakes up in a suitcase on the roof of a building with the suicidal man from the beginning of the movie teetering on the ledge, who Oh Dae-su saves from his impending splat and instead subjects him to the story up to this point.

Now a hard-ass and heartless fighting machine, Oh Dae-su sets out to find why he has been imprisoned for so long hoping for some wild sex and live octopus meals along the way. Little does our victim know that the fifteen years of solitary madness, solitary sex and quiet nights-in in front of the TV are only the beginning of the elaborate vengeance plan against him and his life is about to get much more complicated than he ever believed was possible. His own personal plans of revenge are insignificant compared to what he is currently, unknowingly, playing a major part in.

Not wanting to spoil the pure brilliance of the story, the plot description stops here. Park Chan-wook has once again made a high quality serving of extreme cinema and personally I find Oldboy to be the epitome of the Vengeance movies. When the plot falls into place towards the end of the film it is one gasp after another as the true depths of Oh Dae-su's tormentors' retribution scheme is exposed and the viewer wonders if the punishment fits the crime, and when the anguished victim realises what he has done his last desperate pleas for clemency are enough to make anyone go a big rubbery one. As well as the aforementioned beautiful complexity of the plot, Min-sik Choi makes a tremendous performance, compellingly portraying a truly desperate and confused individual accompanied by estimable performances from the rest of the cast. Oldboy is an intriguingly transfixing movie which is still a remarkable watch after numerous viewings.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies
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