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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 14.1%
Average: 9.62%
Pretty Bad: 4.49%
Total Crap: 28.85%

10 reviews, 96 user ratings

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Oldboy (2005)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Luke Pyzik

"Whoh, boy"
5 stars

Chan-wook Park’s “Oldboy” is a run away train, a kinetic force of nature that will eat you up and spit you out. When the credits roll, the theater staff will need a spatula to peel you out of your chair. This is the kind of movie you’re not supposed to be able to distribute in America anymore, in fact, it’s a small miracle this Korean film ever reached U.S. shores. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

The movie opens on our hero, middle-aged Dae-su (Min-sik Choi), behaving badly in a police station drunk tank. The sequence starts out funny, quickly gets uncomfortable, and then extends into pure horror, as we see the depths of his alcoholism. Still, we like the guy. He carries a set of angel wings that are a birthday present for his daughter. A friend escorts him home from the police station, and as they stop to make a phone call, Dae-su disappears without a trace. He wakes up in a prison cell disguised as a hotel room, and spends fifteen years watching television, punching the walls, and descending into madness.

The plot from there depends on twists and turns I will not reveal, only to say that Dae-su finds himself back in the real world with revenge and murder on his mind, and the only lead to his captor is the taste of a specific restaurant’s pot stickers. Early Internet buzz has touted the movie as an ultra-violent action fest. That is a bit of a misrepresentation. Audiences familiar with Takashi Miike or early John Woo may be expecting something different than what they’ll get. Sure, “Oldboy” has its over the top moments of stomach churning violence (and one scene involving the rawest dinner you’ve ever seen someone eat), but it is not exactly an action movie. I know a lot of readers interpret the world “psychological” as “boring,” but “Oldboy” is more of a psychological thriller than an action film, and it is the furthest thing from boring.

The movie does contain one of the coolest fight scenes I’ve even witnessed, a battle between Dae-su and dozens of foot soldiers that takes place in a narrow hallway and is filmed mostly in one long take. It’s not a stylized “one vs. many” movie fight that audiences have become familiar with through Jackie Chan and “Kill Bill vol. 1,” but rather a grizzly street fight that looks like what might really happen if one bad dude took on fifty goofballs. It’s dark and dirty and messy. It looks like a scene Sam Peckinpah could have directed. There is a torture scene involving teeth and a pair of pliers that will make even the most desensitized moviegoer turn their head. And the finale is a bloody masterpiece of severed body parts and bullet-holes that unfolds in a luxurious penthouse and instantly becomes one those infamous movie sets that shacks up in your brain and turns up in your dreams and nightmares.

But it’s all the things inbetween the moments of violence that make “Oldboy” so special. It is the relationship between Dae-su and Mido (Gang Hye-Jung), a young woman he meets at a restaurant, that gives the movie its heart. Their relationship is sweet and tender. She is willing to help him find his unknown enemies, and he provides her a suitable distraction from her loneliness. Their love for each other becomes deep and meaningful, and when their union is in jeopardy, we sincerely want to see them pull through.

As the movie enters its final third, we meet Dae-su’s captor and begin to learn why he was so mysteriously imprisoned. The depths of these reasons are so methodically evil and simultaneously insignificant that we could not have possibly predicted them. You may be able to guess one aspect of the secret (as I did), but will not be able to trust your guess (as I was unable to), and whether you do or not, when the truth is revealed, your heart will drop to your feet and explode through your toes.

There are few movies whose characters have moved me so much that I want to see them end happily. In my world, most movies would do well to end ambiguously or on a sour note to reflect life’s truths, and most movie characters are so grating that I just wish their heads would explode before the final scene. But if ever a movie has earned a happy ending it is “Oldboy.” There were moments during the film’s bloody climax where I wanted Dae-su to succeed so badly I was in tears. Whether or not the film does have a happy ending will be for each viewer to decide. The final scene will pinch your insides one last time, and I guarantee it will make you say these exact words: “I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that.” This is filmmaking at its absolute finest.

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originally posted: 03/30/05 07:59:47
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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

4/23/18 Oliver Twist Totally overrated. Guesses the "surprise" after 10 minutes. Motive not believable. 1 stars
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
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 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, 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
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  25-Mar-2005 (R)
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010



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