Old Boy (2003) Review

"Oldboy" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Oldboy" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Oldboy
Director: Park Chan-wook
Producer: Ji Yeong-Jun, Kim Dong-Ju
Writers: Hwang Jo-Yun, Im Jun-Hyeong
Cast: Choi Min-Sik, Yu Ji-Tae, Kang Hye-Jeong, Ji Dae-Han, Oh Dal-Su, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Su-Hyeon, Park Myeong-Sin, Lee Dae-Yeon, Yun Jin-Seo
Running Time: 120 min.

By Owlman

Oldboy is one of those films that prove difficult to review. Not because it wasn’t entertaining (it very much was). Nor was the storyline and character development lacking (storyline was very engaging, character development was strong).

No, it’s difficult to review solely because of the fact that any little bit that’s revealed about the movie kind of spoils the fun of it.

The only thing that you need to know about the film’s plot is that Oh Dae-Su gets locked up somewhere for 15 years. Upon completion of said incarceration, he is released and left to his own devices to determine who did it and why.

The movie has cemented my adoration of Park Chan-Wook and his output to date. From Joint Security Area, to Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, through to Oldboy, he never ceases to amaze me with his films – simply because after viewing each film, I can’t stop thinking about them.

Case in point – I watched Oldboy about a month ago and still find myself thinking about all the intricate twists and turns that befall the protagonist of Oh Dae-Su. I lent the movie to a co-worker of mine who watched it with his girlfriend one weekend – he, too, couldn’t stop thinking about the movie afterwards. My father also watched it with my mother – again, the same result.

I’m beginning to sound like a raving idiot but I’m being completely serious here. I really felt that viewing Oldboy was quite an experience, resulting in this movie landing firmly in any list of my all-time favourite films. However, you should be fairly warned – the movie was very disturbing. If news about an American remake of the film really do bear fruit, I can only imagine how watered-down it will turn out to be.

I conclude this half-assed review of Oldboy by telling you that my mother now thinks that I’m a fucking nutter for lending my dad the movie. With praise like that, you can’t go wrong with this film.

Owlman’s Rating: 10/10 (plus a big thumbs down from my mom)


By Mairosu

Yes, I got off my movie binge and did, well, other things men do in life. But, I recently did see one movie after reading literally throngs of recommendation and great critique, and I have to say while it didn’t really strike me as the next best thing since sliced bread, I did like it immensely and would recommend it further down the road. The film I’m talking about is Chan Wook-Park’s “Oldboy”, the second entry in this talented director’s “revenge” trilogy and the hottest thing in the asian movie market nowadays.

As soon as Oldboy appeared on the share networks I grabbed a subbed copy for my perusal, but only got time to check it out recently. So, anyway…this is a story of a guy (Choi Min-Sik, dude who plays the hard-boiled North Korean commando in Shiri) who one day, virtually out of the blue, gets hijacked and locked up in an isolated apartment somewhere in Korea (I assume Seoul by the architecture). After 15 years and lots of loneliness, he is finally released into the civilization. As soon as he manages to catch a breath of fresh air, only one thing prevails in his mind – vengeance. ‘Cause Oh Daesu, our “hero” if we can call him like that, is just about ready to leave no rocks around this Earth unturned in order to find his captor. And then torture him slowly.

But payback, as Daesu is about to learn, is really a bitch. He quickly gets entangled in a web his friendly hijacker weaved for him, going from place to place and trying to piece together why would someone want him to rot for 15 years. And why would someone release him after those 15 years. And who is that someone who wants him to rot and release and…ah never mind.

I’m not going to spoil the film for you this time. It would be a shame, but there is a twist at the end which drops on you just like Josh Beckett’s hammer curveball. And it comes from left field. Far left field. Heck, bleachers even. Waveland avenue. But enough baseball references. Wook, the man who earned critical acclaim worldwide after directing a Rashomonesque story of North-South border dissent in Korea called JSA and another vengeance movie called simply Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, is simply put a master of his craft. The atmosphere which is created in Oldboy is an effective combination of tense and the unknown, and the selection of music which follows the film (mostly classical pieces) is pretty well implemented. Violence in Oldboy is of definitive note. Now I’m immune to celluloid violence most of the times, but I was squirming in my seat watching Oldboy. It’s nasty. And then some. For you dear readers who felt that the ear slicing scene in Reservoir Dogs was tough, don’t even approach Oldboy. Heck, bypass it by a few miles or a dozen. And there is a scene which will permanently instill you feelings of disgust whenever you hear the word “octopus”. Just so that is also said in advance. If you still have doubts about Wook, check out the one-take brawl scene of about 5 minutes in which Oh Daesu obliterates a bunch of bad guys in a long hallway. That scene – just that scene – was worth the price of admission.

Is it the best film ever though ? Probably not. It has some flaws here and there, and the plot can get hard to follow sometimes. But it’s still pretty, pretty, pretty damn good. Shiri introduced Korean film to the world, JSA and My Sassy Girl cemented its cult status, but Oldboy is gonna swing that door wide open now. This film has the potential to shake up the western film industry just like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs did 12 years ago. And I sure hope it happens.

Bring on the R2/PAL DVD now. With loadsa extras, ’cause I want to know if that was a genuine live octopus.

Mairosu’s Rating: 8.75/10


By Equinox21

I’ll start off by stating up front that I simply didn’t enjoy Old Boy as much as I enjoyed the other two Park Chan-wook movies I’ve seen. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and J.S.A. are two of my personal favorites, so I know that I had extremely high expectations when I popped the Old Boy DVD into my player (though, I was trying to keep my expectations in check). I was treated to a movie with wonderful acting and direction that was visually spectacular, but with a story that I simply didn’t enjoy as much as the other two films by the same director.

When Oh Deasu (Choi Min-sik) wakes up only to find himself locked in a room, he pleads with his captors to let him go. This goes on for 15 years, until he finally wakes up in the same place he was abducted from a decade and a half earlier. What follows is a phone call as his first clue as to the identity of his abductor and the reason for his incarceration. In his search for revenge, he falls in love with a younger woman which becomes a key element in his twisted story. Even though it wraps up nicely, some of the film’s plot points were a bit too far fetched for me to thoroughly enjoy.

By the end of the movie, if you’re even the least bit observant, you will have already guessed who each of the characters is and the reasons for the imprisonment. The problem is that none of the reasons for each of the character’s actions in Old Boy are nearly as “noble” as they are in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. In SFMV, there were no bad people, just people thrown into situations that they reacted to differently. Old Boy was all about people holding grudges for years, and finally acting upon them in a way that couldn’t possibly help anyone solve anything.

But all this is not to say that the movie isn’t enjoyable. It was a pleasure to be treated to more of Park Chan-wook’s visual artistry. Plus, Choi Min-sik is always a joy to watch. Especially in Old Boy, where he gets to act really crazy and occasionally over the top (in a way that makes sense to the story; donât worry, he’s not over doing it for the part) at times.

Other than the negative parts of the plot that I already described, everything about this film was terrific. I really enjoyed watching it, even if I was a little bit let down at the end.

Equinox21’s Rating: 8/10

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One Response to Old Boy (2003) Review

  1. Arthur says:

    Park Chan Wook’s MASTERPIECE and a revelation in modern filmmaking; plainly put: PHENOMENAL!!! Must-See! 10/10.

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