Oldboy

OldBoy

 

Seeing “Oldboy” for a second time was an interesting experience. When I first saw the film back in 2003, I was blown away. It was an impressive action movie with a perverse mind, and it was my first exposure to Park Chan Wook. I saw it this time with my girlfriend, who had not seen it before, but had watched “Thirst” with me a while back, which was her first experience with Park. She had been excited by the crazy Korean director, and so, after watching “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” together (both our first time—it was good, if a bit unimpressive and confusing), I decided it was time to revisit what I considered one of the best films of 2003.

While it is still a very powerful film, I feel “Oldboy” was enhanced by being among the first of the South Korean extreme-scene films to cross over towards us. It has an energy that we weren’t familiar with and filled with humor and morbidity that is currently unsurpassed in the global film scene. Not only that, but there appear to be a fresh crop of talent that know how to make good cinema (“The Host,” being another early contender). It is perhaps for this reason that while I favor “Old Boy,” my girlfriend prefers “Thirst” (while also being a fan of “Oldboy” and “Sympathy” as well): because it is what we were exposed to first. Perhaps it is a bit akin to seeing your first French New Wave film. You may wind up seeing superior films from the movement later, but the one that exposed you to the whole scene was a breath of fresh air you aren’t soon to forget.

The story is simple..well, not really. Oh Dae-Su starts the film off on a drunken binge and is detained by the police until he sobers up. When he does, he is kidnapped, and incarcerated for fifteen years. During this time, he befriends a TV and trains his body to be a fighting machine. He also attempts to dig himself out of his apartment jail cell. However, he doesn’t need to. The fifteen years passes, and he wakes up in a suitcase on the roof of an apartment building. He soon learns that he has five days to find his captor and discover why he was incarcerated for fifteen years.

And that is what he does. He does this amid bloody humor, perversions galore, and some of the most wildest and funny fight sequences that I can recall.

“Oldboy” is an experience more than anything else. While its plot and the eventual revelation do pack quite a punch, it is the pure visceral thrill of Park Chan Wook’s filmmaking which stirred up attention, and made it an international success as well as beginning the eruption of the “Asian Extreme” filmmaking which has since created cult fans everywhere.

If you haven’t seen it, see it. If you have, watch it again, or take a peek at “Thirst.” Either way, you’ll witness a raw unbridled talent with a bit of a sickness in him. We just happen to be lucky that he turns it into some powerful cinema. Park Chan Wook has the skill of many of the in demand action directors of America, and he has a knack for taking a story that we’ve all seen and heard before and twist it inside out, until you’re not sure why you’re smiling so much at what you’ve seen. But you are. I guess there’s a bit of sickness in all of us there, Oldboy.

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