Cert: 18 Runtime: 120 mins Director: Chan-wook Park Cast: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu and Hye-jeong Kang
Even though I’m no more than a monster – don’t I, too, have the right to live?
A few years back I was in my local HMV looking for new movies to watch, a few of my friends told me Oldboy was worth a watch. After purchasing it I didn’t even open the cellophane for about a year. When I eventually watched it I regretted my decision not having this film in my life much sooner. When I heard Spike Lee was making a re-make of this classic I was rather surprised, even more that Chan w00k-Park had given his blessing. So before I watch yet another Americanization of a good foreign language film, I thought I would make the original my blast from the past. On the day of his daughter’s birthday, Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) gets completely drunk and is arrested. His best friend No Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji) releases him from the police station, and while calling home from a phone booth, Dae-su Oh vanishes. Indeed he has been abducted and imprisoned in a room for fifteen years. One day, he is suddenly released, receives clothes, money and a cellular and meets the Japanese chef Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang) , and they feel a great attraction for each other. However, Dae-su Oh seeks for his captor and the reason of his long imprisonment. While looking for revenge, Dae-su Oh discloses deep secrets from the past.
The first word that springs to mind when thinking about this film has to be graphic. There are certain scenes which will make those of nervous disposition recoil until they are firmly wedged between the back and seat of their sofa, and they are likely to spend much of the film there as violence is frequent. In most of the extreme cases it is simply the implication of violence and the viewer’s imagination when left to its own devices like this will cause its own disgust. The best way I can justify these scenes is simple. It is all about sending a message, and these do just that. If you can cope with this then you will break down the initial barrier the film leaves lying in the way of your enjoyment.Another barrier will be the massive culture shock experienced when viewing the film. This is a Korean language film adapted from a Japanese animé series, so there are obviously large cultural differences to the western world. Some of the images used will require quite some thought to fully understand, and the script on translation does lose some of its flow, as any animé or graphic novel fans will associate with.
Chan-Wook takes on a policy of “trust the director”, and leaves many questions throughout the film which gives it a somewhat disorientating feel at times. This method of directing can seem quite inaccessible, however all loose ends are tied up very satisfactorily in the enthralling and shocking climax. This is an ending to rival the classic Kaiser Sozé twist in the tail of The Usual Suspects.Old Boy is a film which assesses the deepest corners of the human heart. The middle of three films which make up Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy it is undoubtedly the masterpiece, with a more powerful message than Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This film has power because of the depths to which it explores the flaws and forces the human heart possesses, stronger and more destructive than any wisdom can overcome. The performances of the main cast and most importantly the director to send this message to the viewer leave this film as about as close to perfection as I can see any film getting.