More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Advertisement

Overall Rating
3.39

Awesome43.23%
Worth A Look: 14.19%
Average: 9.68%
Pretty Bad: 4.52%
Total Crap: 28.39%

10 reviews, 95 user ratings



Oldboy (2005)
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Nasty, in all the best ways."
4 stars

Oldboy is nasty, but for the most part, it's compelling-nasty as opposed to gratuitous-nasty. Everything about it, from its plot to its performances to its violence, is over-the-top, and if there's an idea that can make the average member of an audience uncomfortable, Oldboy probably hits it at some point. Still, the shocks don't really become repulsive until the last act - acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook fills his garish movie with as much intrigue as grotesquerie.

The movie opens with credits suggesting clocks, and then a wild-haired man holding another off the side of the building. We flash back to see him some time earlier, drunk and disorderly in a police station waiting for a friend to pick him up, and learn that his name, "Oh Dae-su", means "easy to get along with". As his friend calls Dae-su's wife, though, we find out that someone doesn't find him so agreeable, as Dae-su disappears. We next see him in a tiny apartment whose door has an opening in the bottom for his jailors to pass him food but no explanations. After a year locked in the apartment, there's a report on TV about his wife being murdered, with Dae-su the prime suspect. He'll stay there much longer, the television his only contact with the outside world, slowly trying to dig his way out, training himself to be at least fit enough to handle himself in a fight, even if he has no sparring partners. Bare days before his escape is complete, though, he is released. He tells this story to a man he finds ready to jump off a roof, and then begins the grim business of finding out who imprisoned him - and perhaps more importantly, why.

As Dae-su, Choi Min-sik is a frightening presence. He looks like he's been held in the woods, not a Souel apartment and though the television has kept him informed enough to prevent any Rip van Winkle-style confusion, his social skills have atrophied and he's as single-minded in his purpose as one would imagine. He's like the Count of Monte Cristo without the clarity - a TV instead of a mentor with whom he could interact, no idea on whom to focus his lust for revenge, and a murder charge still hanging over his head. The audience can't help but admire his resourcefulness and strength of purpose despite being worried that he's going to snap - or already has.

There are a couple people who appear to be potential allies - Mido (Kang Hye-jeong) is a young sushi chef he saw profiled on TV who takes an interest in him when appears in her restaurant demanding to eat something alive (more shocking in the West than in Korea, where still-moving octopus is not an uncommon meal); No Joo-hwan (Ji Dae-han) was the man who picked him up at the police station and now runs an internet café. They seem trustworthy, but are they really? More clearly untrustworthy are Park Cheol-woong (Oh Dal-su), who runs an imprisonment business, and Lee Woo-jin (Yu Ji-tae), a wealthy man who travels with a retinue of bodyguards.

I wasn't much of a fan of Park Chan-wook's previous movie to receive a U.S. release, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but Oldboy is much more impressive. The story comes from a Japanese manga, and while Park probably doesn't crib images from his source material quite so verbatim as Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City, some very manga-like bits remain. The shot of Dae-su emerging from a trunk into a field of grass (soon revealed to be a rooftop garden), and the darkly comic follow-up with the man he meets there, in particular, are striking. There's also an astounding fight between Dae-su and a dozen of Park's henchmen that looks for all the world like a single take. park infuses the movie with energy and surrealism.

The screenplay - by Park and other collaborators - is strong in its overall structure although it has some issues in the details. One of the reasons the movie chugs along so well is that it starts letting Dae-su find a trail and some answers rather quickly, rather than just stringing him along until the end. Some of the details seem rather coincidental, and a couple bits of misdirection might merit a little more explanation, but the story is solid. I had some complaints about the end, where Dae-su's actions go completely over the top, both in terms of being just disgusting (if not as graphic as a similar scene in Ichi the Killer) and not making any sense that I could see.

Oldboy might not be marked down as a horror movie by those who make such distinctions, as it has no supernatural elements, but it's one of the more unsettling films I've seen in a while. Despite one of the earliest scenes taking place in a police station, there's a frightening lawlessness to the movie - the cops arrest Dae-su for drunkenness, and a murder charge hangs over him for much of the movie, but the functions of law-enforcement are usurped and twisted by the villains - people are imprisoned for a fee (Dae-su is not the only victim, just one of the longer-term ones) and for twisted reasons. Often, morality is skewed, and used as little more than a justification for barbarism. Even the victories come in a dispiriting manner.

Korea currently has one of the world's most vital national cinemas, in part because of movies like Oldboy. It's an inventive, entertaining thriller; high-concept and accessible without being conventional. It mis-steps a bit in the end, but not nearly enough to negate all the time you've spent leaning forward, just needing to know what's going to happen next.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10328&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/22/05 11:29:29
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival. For more in the 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/12/15 Christian Paulson Hammertime! 5 stars
5/09/12 Marty Bold twists, sick story with good acting. Some parts not needed for main plot. 4 stars
8/12/11 jiropan classic disturbing film............excellent plotlines......... 5 stars
1/26/11 Keireki Sorry, movie was shit. 1 stars
12/31/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Might be the most inventive, offbeat and imaginative movie of 2003 5 stars
9/22/10 stam JUST EPIC 5 stars
4/18/10 PAUL SHORTT TENSE, VIOLENT AND UNPLEASANT 2 stars
3/26/10 tina incest!!!!!! ewwww, i think they have lots of problems to film something like that 1 stars
2/22/10 Langano Brilliant. 5 stars
9/23/09 Blind n Retarded not set in tokyo. not a waitress. not his girlfriend. 4 stars
8/11/09 menten shocked... in a good way. one and only in the world. 5 stars
4/17/09 Total Crap I love asian extreme films, this has one of the sickest twists I've ever seen in a movie. 4 stars
8/05/08 Bnorm Dae Su was a beast he fucked up like 30 dudes with nothing but a hammer and his fists! 5 stars
5/16/08 Marlow You feel sick to stomach but there's no denying the movie is impressive 5 stars
5/30/07 Charles Tatum Sucks you right in, with an ending Americans would never dare do 5 stars
3/27/07 MP Bartley Crazy stuff, that strains plausibility by the end. Mostly grandly and vividly entertaining. 4 stars
2/13/07 Double M STYLISH, SICK and EASILY misunderstood. Choi gives 1 of the BEST performances EVER filmed. 5 stars
1/05/07 Eric P. Amazing revenge flick. 5 stars
12/05/06 Leslie i liked Sympathy for Lady Vengeance better. But Mr. Choi's acting is excellent!! 4 stars
10/13/06 Hoggydog STOP POSTING SPOILERs! COUGHtrigger happy. good movie. 5 stars
9/14/06 Stubby Expertly-crafted, but...ugh...that ending. 3 stars
8/20/06 Dyll This film was wicked. Brilliantly written. Don't believe the naysayers. 5 stars
5/25/06 malcolm classic revenge flick. i'm surprised, but glad, no american has redone this one 5 stars
4/25/06 Furuta One of the best films ever!!! 5 stars
3/11/06 Rick Yamakoshi A visual and moral assault on the senses. 5 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands Truly unbelievable. One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. 5 stars
1/20/06 ChappyX Park's SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE is heads and shoulders above this letdown of a film. 1 stars
1/12/06 TriggerHappy That daughter fucking shit is just disturbing as hell... 1 stars
1/06/06 SlappytheFrog Amazing first hour, followed by a much-less-interesting one and a sucky ending. Meh. 3 stars
11/25/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME... YOU GUYS DON'T KNOW A GOOD FILM WHEN YOU SEE ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/23/05 hibbyX Will you people get off the hallway fight already?! It was NOT that great! Geeeeeeeeeez!! 2 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Brilliant. One sequence is jaw-dropping. Matrix what? 4 stars
11/21/05 skippy A few good scenes, a whole lotta crappy ones. No sale. 1 stars
11/21/05 Kibble I really didn't see what the big deal was, other than the incest and octopus-eating. 1 stars
11/06/05 Sin-Jin Smyth Yeah, TPS is right...excellently-made crap. 1 stars
11/02/05 mind dump Is vengeance worth it? Yes...therefore, this film is shit. 1 stars
11/02/05 shackle Dae su deserved vengeance and no only did he not get it...he got fucked over even worse!!!! 1 stars
10/29/05 JesseKnobs I agree...well-made but not very entertaining and really fucking sick. 1 stars
10/28/05 TPS stunningly made and truly aweful to watch 2 stars
10/26/05 Crumbcake Daughter fucking...ew. 1 stars
10/24/05 Suk-R-Punch Like a joke with no punchline? No...just like a joke. 1 stars
10/19/05 Gumbo I agree that this was totally pointless. The end was not only gross, but meaningless. 1 stars
10/17/05 Crapture GARBAGE, WORST REVENGE FILM EVER MADE...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
10/15/05 OodlesofOs The most pointless film ever made. Like a joke with no punchline, but another joke setup. 1 stars
10/14/05 gasp Shitty movie meets shitty movie meets dorky fanboys who love what others tell them to!!!!!! 1 stars
10/13/05 Agent Sands The Road Warrior meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Saw meets Fight Club. 5 stars
10/13/05 Bryant Gumby Best revenge film, despite the fact that no revenge was actually had by the main character? 1 stars
10/12/05 Johnny Cake ...and this is entertaining...how?? 1 stars
10/11/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME, BEST REVENGE FILM EVER MADE...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/10/05 Biz-e This should have been called LAMEBOY. 1 stars
9/23/05 Jakub Watch AUDITION instead... 1 stars
9/19/05 mung He eats a squid and fucks his daughter...there, you don't need to see this now. Overrated! 1 stars
9/12/05 Bloodclot critics like dung 1 stars
9/07/05 Bitchum The hallway fight was great! It was everything else that licked twat... 1 stars
9/05/05 JubJub I think this is the most overrated movie of all-time. 1 stars
9/04/05 Tjalda L. Schiel What a disgusting mess. What is wrong with you critics? Ugh. 1 stars
9/03/05 Craven I really didn't see what the big god damn deal was. I thought it blew. 1 stars
9/02/05 Mailk By the end, you feel as bad as that poor squid. 1 stars
9/02/05 Edward This was like dining upon a big, massive elephant turd. 1 stars
9/01/05 unlimited this is the most schizophrenic movie i've ever seen...'couldn't decide what it wanted to be 2 stars
8/31/05 Vasquez do you guys really watch these movies or do you just praise them based on what others say? 1 stars
8/30/05 Brisbane Possibly the most unpleasant movie I've ever sat through. 1 stars
8/29/05 Blissful Johnny Chan-wook Park: Korea's answer to Tarantino...only without that pesky talent stuff. 1 stars
8/28/05 Jabberjaw The ending was just too disgusting for me...plus, I wanted Dae-su to triumph, but he didn't 1 stars
8/28/05 hicks You loved this because everyone told you to, lapdogs. 1 stars
8/28/05 Joker What was the big deal about THIS?!?!?! 1 stars
8/26/05 cam-ron As good as everyone says...only the opposite of that. 1 stars
8/26/05 Termite There are a ton of amazing Korean films worth seeing and discussing, this isn't one of them 1 stars
8/25/05 Copper No squid, no hallway fight, no incest = no one would even mention it. 1 stars
8/24/05 salamone All the people who recommended this to me got a punch in the neck the next morning. CRAP!! 1 stars
8/22/05 MC Serch People who say "Best Movie of the Year" obviously didn't see any other movies that year. 1 stars
8/22/05 Chumscrubber God, this film is the very definition of the word OVERRATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
8/20/05 marv If the point was "revenge is bad," why does the bad guy get away with HIS revenge? Huh???? 1 stars
8/20/05 Rever_Bear-Trap Possibly, one of the finest definitions of a psychological/revenge flick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/20/05 Cardigan Geez, what film were YOU all watching? Because I'd love to see THAT one, instead of this. 1 stars
8/19/05 Gaston POOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
8/19/05 JiJi What a lame, disappointing ending. Ruined the whole experience for me. 3 stars
7/05/05 Mike The sort of film that stays with you long after you watch it 5 stars
6/30/05 cristeen69 liked the film, thought it was good, especially ji tae, incetuous overtone 4 stars
6/18/05 aldo ..not much action..story is complex...the end is disgusting 2 stars
6/01/05 Scott Reynolds Get Hammered!! 4 stars
5/17/05 Shawn Borucki Nails you in the head with a hammer. Seems predictible until it changes on a drop of a dime 4 stars
4/15/05 Jozev I felt sick after watching it but I love the creativity and the cinematography. 5 stars
4/13/05 Junior LaRoche Best movie of 2004!!!! 5 stars
4/07/05 Roderick Cromar Too horrific to be called entertainment. That octopus..... 2 stars
3/29/05 KD Like drilling your skull AND getting shot in the balls 1 stars
3/22/05 The Mockingbird terriffic sick surprising complex movie 5 stars
3/13/05 Mike An instant classic. 5 stars
2/26/05 James Kiang Excellent, though the big revelation makes it difficult to blindly recommend. 4 stars
2/14/05 neonjazz Absolutely, undoubtably a masterpiece! 5 stars
2/13/05 Niklas Salonen Absolutely no Good 2 stars
2/09/05 Chris C Amazing Movie, loved it!! 5 stars
11/03/04 Derek Horrible! Extravagant! Superb! A masterpeace! 5 stars
9/19/04 John it was a great movie. Highly Recommended 5 stars
9/02/04 Gavin Peach Excellent! I love Chan Wook Park's films and this is another truimph! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:


Discuss this movie in our forum

USA
  25-Mar-2005 (R)
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A




Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
eFilmCritic.com: Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast