With the Spike Lee re-imagining of OLDBOY coming out, I decided to rewatch the original Korean version directed by Park Chanwook. Simply put, OLDBOY is a masterpiece of revenge drama. Bloody and violent, it is also unrelenting in its themes.
Based on a Japanese manga, it tells the tale of Oh Dae-Su (Min-sik Choi), a businessman who is literally pissing his life down the toilet. He has a big mouth and is a womanizing drunk. That is about to change when he is abducted and held in a cell-like room for 15 years. What’s worse is that he’s not giving any reason why. He must endure and suffer. There is no escape and he soon learns from the news, courtesy of the TV set that is his only companion, that he has been framed for the murder of his ex-wife.
Then inexplicably one day, he’s set free. He awakens in a travel trunk and given money and a cellphone. His one goal now is to unravel who did this to him and why. Why did they murder his wife and what happened to his daughter? Along the way, he meets a young sushi chef Mido (Gang Hye-jeong) and she helps him solve the mystery.
And what a complex and twisted mystery it is. I will keep this SPOILER FREE, but I’ll warn you that OLDBOY takes you to places that you’ve never been and it doesn’t pull any punches.
As I’ve mentioned, it is a fairly violent film. It includes an iconic fight seen with a hammer and a hallway that needs to be seen to be believed. But even for all its violence, the movie has a heart as well as a fantastical whimsy that reminded me at times of the equally MUST SEE MOVIE, AMÉLIE. This movie is not for everybody, but those who are fans of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Sam Pekinpah will find this film a revelation.