I initially resisted seeing this film. I really did. I hate when films are “popular” because everybody seems to have something half-assed to talk about. They mindlessly prattle on about “OH this director” and “OH that director”. It makes me want to puke because I know they’ll be moving on to the next trend in film. I can honestly say that Oldboy was above and beyond anything the uppity foreign film crowd could have prepared me for. Oldboy will be talked about in film schools thirty years from now, long after the big budget Hollywood remake has been relegated to the five dollar bin at Wal-Mart.
Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is a brash, drunken big mouth arrested for disorderly conduct one rainy night. The police do their best to contain him but there’s nothing really left to do but handcuff Dae-su to the wall and let him sober up. Things appear to be going Dae-su’s way when his best friend, No Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji) bails him out to take him home. It’s Dae-su’s daughter’s birthday and he plans to show up with a great pair of angel wings as her present. Both men stop off at a telephone booth to call home but Dae-su wanders away and disappears.
When we see Dae-su next, he’s in what appears to be a hotel room. Despite his pleas and fits of anger, Dae-su has no idea who has incarcerated him and how long they plan to keep him there.
Come night, he’s gassed so his captors can freely tend to his needs while he sleeps. During his waking hours he watches television, writes in a series of journals detailing all of the people he may have offended and he begins pounding the walls for exercise. As the hours turn into days and weeks turn into months, Dae-su begins hallucinating from loneliness and attempts to kill himself several times. There’s nothing left for him any longer as his wife has been murdered and he’s considered the prime suspect.
As the years begin to tick away, Dae-su’s thirst for vengeance grows. Finally without warning, after fifteen years in captivity, he’s released. After fainting in a restaurant, he’s taken to sushi chef Mi-do’s (Hye-jeong Kang) apartment. She cares for him and as they become closer he relays his story to her. Dae-su still isn’t sure why he’s been set free though. All he knows is that the parties responsible must pay for what they’ve done to him and his Family. With the help of Mi-do and his old friend No Joo-hwan, they begin tracking down leads in an attempt to pinpoint the mastermind. Dae-su needn’t look far though as Woo-jin Lee (Ji-tae Yu), responsible for his incarceration, makes himself known to Dae-su. He’s given an ultimatum, “Find out who I am and why I’ve incarcerated you in 5 days or I’ll kill everybody you love.”
Dae-su must fight his way to the truth. There’s only one problem…the truth is uglier and more terrifying then he could have ever expected.
First of all…the remake to Oldboy will be nothing short of a cinematic slap in the face. A grand waste of money on the studio’s part and time on the viewer’s part. There is no damn way this story will survive intact during the re-writing phase. We’ll be fed the typical blather about “cultural differences” and in the end we’ll receive a watered down, slickly choreographed pile of product placement and WB faces.
Tartan’s Asia Extreme label is blazing hot right now with some of the best damn Asian cinema releases I’ve seen in years. Oldboy is no exception. Though I felt this release could have been a bit heavier on the extras side, you work with what you have. The sound, transfer quality and packaging are all top notch.
Oldboy is a tense, heart-stopping film destined to be a classic. I was on the edge of my seat, wide-eyed, laughing, cringing and cursing through the whole film. The films finale grabbed me by the throat and pimp slapped me right in the eye. I wasn’t sure whether to cheer or go to confession. With the third and final installment in Chan-wook Park’s Revenge Trilogy on the way (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Tartan Video simply has to consider a box set.