South Korea, 2003, 120 min, 35mm, Dir. Park Chan-wook, Rated R, Kino Lorber
“Oldboy is a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
A hammer, live octopus, and an abundance of blood & guts are par for the course in Park Chan-wook’s second installment in his Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). When Oh Dae-su is released from the hotel room he’s been imprisoned in for 15 years, he sets out on a violent quest for vengeance against those who took his life away. The film is based on a Japanese manga of the same name by Garon Tsuchiya and plays like a Greek tragedy, with all the violence and mutilation one expects. But like those ancient works, the brutality does not “play for shock value, but [is] part of the whole” as Roger Ebert says. For Park, the pursuit of salvation is what ultimately drives his stories, with the disturbing actions of the protagonists acting as the vehicles. Oldboy won the Grand Prix award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and is so popular with American audiences that Hollywood remade the film in 2013 though we like to believe it never happened.
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