Oldboy (18)

Film

Thrillers

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

It’s easy to feel blasé about the steady stream of action-oriented movies from the Far East, but this head-spinner from the director of the crunching ‘Sympathy for Mr Vengeance’ is far, far too good to leave to the ‘Asia Extreme’ crowd.

When we first meet businessman Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-Sik), he’s a drunken boor, though he’d doubtless sober up if he knew what was coming. Abducted by persons unknown, he’s held prisoner for 15 years, until he’s just as unexpectedly released. Still none the wiser, he falls into a relationship with a sushi-bar hostess, whereupon his captor contacts him by mobile and offers a deal: if he can work out why he was kidnapped in the first place, the villain will offer up his life – if not, the girl cops it.

For Oh Dae-Su, getting mad and getting even amount to virtually the same thing. The sequence where he rearranges some low-life’s dental work will doubtless attract over-excited attention, much like the jaw-dropping one-take hammer-wielding skirmish in a corridor. But the upfront mayhem shouldn’t be allowed to distract from the film’s emotional depth or indeed its brilliant lead performance. For the protagonist, vengeance is a voyage of discovery, yet his newfound propensity towards violence troubles him, and his burning desire to confront his secretive nemesis may be fuelled by lingering self-doubt that he deserved his fate. Whatever happens, he’ll never be the same man again.

Choi Min-Sik is in the Pacino or De Niro class, running the gamut from terrifying rage to abject degradation. The implausibilities in the plot melt away because we’re living the experience with him, thanks also in part to the bravura expressiveness of Park’s direction. Hitchcock and Fincher are reference points, but this combines visceral punch, a tortured humanity and even an underlying Korean political resonance given the weight of the past. Quite an achievement then, and well worthy of its Cannes prize.

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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Oct 15, 2004

Duration:

120 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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yduric

I'm writing a second comment that somehow contradicts the first one, this being due to the fact that, in the meantime, I watched the last film of Park Chan-Wook's trilogy of revenge, (Sympathy for) Lady Vengeance. (Oldboy is the second film in that trilogy). I actually sort of liked Lady Vengeance, and this made me re-think about Oldboy. I must admit that ndeb somehow made a point about the violence in this film. Although I'm still definitely not a fan of 'Oldboy' I must admit that the violence and gore are here for a reason, and although they might seem distasteful, they are not exploitative and gratuitous, they are inherent to the story and the theme treated. So my present opinion is that 'Oldboy' is not garbage like I said the first time, it's a disturbing film that is not for everyone, but it is far, far, superior, I humbly admit it, to what I call real garbage, that is to say when violence and degeneration are treated with complacency and even glorified as for instance in the absolute piece of shit that 'Alpha Dog' is. (About that one, I will never, ever change my mind!!!)

benjamin ross

i absolutely loved oldboy. quite unlike any film i had seen. it shocked me, it gripped me, it's an awesome film. be warned tho, the ending is probably the most disturbing thing i've seen on film but if you wanna be pushed to the edge then watch oldboy.

benjamin ross

i absolutely loved oldboy. quite unlike any film i had seen. it shocked me, it gripped me, it's an awesome film. be warned tho, the ending is probably the most disturbing thing i've seen on film but if you wanna be pushed to the edge then watch oldboy.

ndeb

I'd totally forgotten about the violence until I read the review from yduric.... but thinking about it again now, yes, there are some very vivid and violent scenes; and perhaps the film would have been better without them, as it would have avoided this kind of easy criticism. But - to take another example - would Reservoir Dogs have been the same without the severed ear...? No. So taking the film the way it is - the extraordinary elements are the way the viewer is plunged directly into the middle of an inexplicable situation, the calibre of the acting, the remarkable build in the story, the emotional force, and the spectacular visual sense. This is s a film that will remain in the memory, and cannot be recommended highly enough.

ndeb

I'd totally forgotten about the violence until I read the review from yduric.... but thinking about it again now, yes, there are some very vivid and violent scenes; and perhaps the film would have been better without them, as it would have avoided this kind of easy criticism. But - to take another example - would Reservoir Dogs have been the same without the severed ear...? No. So taking the film the way it is - the extraordinary elements are the way the viewer is plunged directly into the middle of an inexplicable situation, the calibre of the acting, the remarkable build in the story, the emotional force, and the spectacular visual sense. This is s a film that will remain in the memory, and cannot be recommended highly enough.