Take a break from your usual movie selection and watch something different with this South Korean movie. Oldboy AKA Oldeuboi is a gritty neo-noir thriller featuring an original plot, an excellent cast, and great production values. If you had any doubts about South Korean cinema, this movie should dispel them with ease. It looks, feels, and sounds like its Hollywood counterparts. However, at the same time, it also features a highly creative and original story based on a Japanese manga of the same name.
We will be following Oh Dae-su, an alcoholic businessman who ends up kidnapped by an unknown organization. Now, he finds himself in this strange prison slowly going insane. Who are the people who kidnapped him? Why did they do it and what’s the purpose behind it all are just some of the questions you’ll be asking. Right away I have to advise you to avoid the dubbed version and go straight for the original South Korean audio. You need to hear Oldboy in order to fully enjoy, and ultimately, get it.
It is actually the second installment in Chan-wook Park’s The Vengeance Trilogy, with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance released one year earlier and Lady Vengeance concluding the trilogy in 2005. As you can see, revenge is a recurring theme in these movies. So, this is not only revenge but also a prison and neo-noir movie. A perfect combination for us looking for that bleak and heavy stuff. There’s a healthy dose of insanity in Oldboy that might wake you up from your slumber. I can’t quite describe it yet. It’s like Oldboy’s insanity is contagious.
Oh Dae-su is having a really bad day that’s about to get even worse. After he got really drunk, he was arrested and placed in a cell, missing his daughter’s birthday. Dae-su feels horrible about this, not knowing that his life is about to change completely. He was in a phone booth when a group of people suddenly kidnapped him. He wakes up in a strange hotel room without windows, locked and alone. What’s even more frightening, he cannot figure out why would someone kidnap and hold him there…
Not only does Oldboy AKA Oldeuboi feature a gripping main plot but also one hell of a main character. Thanks to the committed and intense performance by Choi Min-sik, Dae-su came to life. Technically speaking, this is a character-driven thriller exploring loneliness, love, our society, and life in general. However, you don’t need to go that deep in order to enjoy this masterpiece. You can comfortably stay on the surface and revel in the beauty of Oldboy. And on top of all of that, we also have humor, loads of quite bizarre humor.
By bringing this surreal light that is Dae-su to ordinary situations we get the opportunity to look at things from a different perspective. You somehow become him, looking at the world through his eyes and struggling to keep a façade of normalcy. The shit’s almost therapeutic and it opens the window to a state of mind we rarely encounter. Just take the elevator scene where he’s literally cornered without any idea of what he should do. I really should not be talking about these scenes anymore as I want you to enjoy them unspoiled.
Some of them are very memorable, like the one where he first tests his skills against a group of young delinquents. Or the following one, the one with the octopods. In that sense, Oldboy reminds me of some of Tarantino’s or, better yet, the Coen Brothers’ movies. For example, No Country for Old Men feels very similar, so if you’re looking for something to watch afterward, you should consider it.
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writers: Garon Tsuchiya, Nobuaki Minegishi, Park Chan-wook
Cast: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang, Dae-han Ji
Fun Stuff: Choi Min-sik trained for almost two months in order to be in the right shape for the movie. Moreover he did almost all of his stunts.