Written by Joe the Revelator
“Oh Dae-su, he talks too much.”
This cryptic answer is the only reason offered for the illegal imprisonment of father, husband, and generally sociable guy, Oh Dae-su. For 15 years he is locked away in a reinforced apartment room with only a television for company. He is fed the same takeout every day and is monitored through cameras at all times. His wife has been murdered, he learns through news headlines, and the blame has fallen on him, considering his suspicious disappearance. Oh Dae-su is given not a clue as to who would hold a grudge so deep against him.
As he ponders the years away his cell is sporadically flooded with strange gases and he's ritualistically hypnotized and given subconscious suggestions, to the point where his reality becomes skewed like funhouse mirror. Journals are supplied to him so Oh Dae-su may catalogue the people he has wronged throughout his lifetime, and wonder which of them would inflict such a punishment.
And above all else, he trains. On the slim chance he’s released, Oh Dae-su makes himself ready to take vengeance by working his body like a boxer, and allowing the monster lurking within his soul to surface. Through pain and effort his muscles harden and his fists grow into gnarled, callused masses.
Fifteen years pass. His family is gone. His life is destroyed. The world outside has changed and his only guide is the programming from TV. Oh Dae-su wakes to find himself on an unfamiliar rooftop wearing a tailored suit, free, and lost.
“Be it a rock or a grain of sand, in water they sink alike.”
Should a man be punished for his words? His thoughts? The rumors he perpetrates or the lives he indirectly effects? The bloodbath of Oldboy is strongly supported by twisted morals and skewed principals, framed together into a fantastically dark tale of cause and effect. One small rumor, easily forgotten by the mouth that whispered it, sends a life spiraling into shame and self destruction. Action movies today seem to treat substance as optional, hanging expensive, explosive scenes on shoddy storytelling. Oldboy sticks with you like a parasite in the brain and long after seeing this movie you’ll be considering what you’d do, trapped in your own personal prison.
The soundtrack deserves its own mention as well. Hallway battles and gang fights are heralded with stylish scores, far more powerful than hard-rock beatdowns or Hollywood’s usual dramatic punctuations. Everything flows. Flashbacks are accompanied by waltzes, sweeping the audience along with the memories of troubled characters.
Be forewarned; Oldboy earns its hard ‘R’ rating with blood, sweat, and brief nudity/sexual scenes. The subjects of rape and incest are also broached, though tastefully, which may give some viewers reason to pause. The movie is also subtitled, so be ready to read.
As the hammer flies...
Oldboy is the second installment by director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, and hits hard as one of the best action dramas to come out in the last decade. The fight scenes are bone-jarring and bloody, especially when Oh Dae-su uses his weapon of choice; the hammer. You do not have to be a fan of foreign films to enjoy this, merely a fan of torturing bad guys and pulling teeth out of people’s heads.
Rent this, order this, or buy this. Give the script to a gang of hobos and throw quarters for them to reenact the film. Whatever it takes, watch Oldboy.