Oldboy

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Choi Min-sik Yoo Ji-tae, Gang Hye-jung, Chi Dae-han, Oh Dal-su

Director: Park Chan-wook

What is right and what is wrong where love is concerned? This is a very hard question to answer, this movie does not seek to answer it but rather explores it and presents you the viewer with a very interesting or perhaps alarming scenario within which this question is asked. When we first meet Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) he is drunk and disorderly on his way home to his wife and daughter and after a brush with the police he is dragged home by a faithful friend of his. On the way home his friend stops to make a phone call as he steps out of the phone booth he finds Oh Dae-su’s bag abandoned in the street, he searches and calls out for him but there is no sign of him or where he went. Oh Dae-su is next seen in a room where he is narrating his life as it has been for the past two months, within which he has been kept prisoner in a hotel style room with no human contact.

Oh Dae-su ends up locked up in this room where his anger propels him into practice boxing with the help of the TV and the wall with the aim of ripping to shreds whoever did this to him. After 15 years of having only the TV, his anger and training to keep him going he is released. He then meets and is aided by Mido, a beautiful girl who works in a restaurant whom he finds himself strangely and very strongly drawn just as she is to him. Oh Dae-su manages to track down the place where he was held captive through tasting dumplings. He was fed dumplings whilst he was incarcerated, a taste that he could never forget. So after sampling several dumpling dishes he finds the private prison and proceeds to wreak havoc on the people working there in search of information about the mysterious man who arranged for him to be locked up.

With the help of his old faithful friend he tracks down the location of this mysterious man who put him through hell and as he meets him he is told that yes he could get his revenge, but then he would never find out why he was held there in the first place for all those years. Oh Dae-su decides to leave him and runs away with Mido who he has fallen in love with, as she has also. Oh Dae-su then proceeds to seek out more information about his nemesis and it turns out that they went to the same school together, and as he digs deeper he uncovers a shocking reason for the torture and manipulation that he went through. The final confrontation between Oh Dae-su and his nemesis reveals a horrific secret that even the monster that Oh Dae-su has become cannot handle.

The direction from Park Chan-wook is perfect. He mixes psychological thrills with visceral action scenes and at the base intertwined love and revenge stories. This film has many strands to it but it manages to incorporate them all perfectly.

Choi Min-sik drives this film along with a great central performance of a man who has literally been to hell and back only to discover that hell is only just beginning. He handles the rage and misery that his character feels very well. The supporting performances all prove to be equally good. This movie has Hollywood remake written all over it and I am sure that in a short while you shall be seeing a sanitized Hollywood version on the big screen, which will be a shame as this is very effective just as it is.

Very thought provoking movie that will raise questions about the boundaries of love.

4 out of 6 stars

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