Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang
Director: Chan-wook Park
Asian cinema has been knocking on Hollywood's door ever since director John Woo and action star Jackie Chan became household names, but it’s never really made an impact until now. Some of the best films of the year were harshly brushed aside ("House of Flying Daggers"), and others were mutilated by Hollywood executives who attempted to Americanize the foreign film market of the East ("The Ring" and "The Grudge"). Finally, a film like “Oldboy” has hit the States like a falling meteor begging for the attention of the mass audience, and once “Oldboy” reels you in, it never lets go. Directed by Korean film icon Chan-wook Park, “Oldboy” is a visceral thrill ride of revenge unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Recently released from a local police station after being arrested on his daughter’s birthday, Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is kidnapped and imprisoned in a room for 15 years. As he watches news reports about the framed murder of his wife on the small TV set that highlights his room, Dae-su slowly drives himself mad as he plans revenge on the men that took away his life. Then, one day, Dae-su is suddenly set free on the top of a grass-covered city building. After befriending a quiet Sushi cook (Hye-jeong Kang) during his first days of freedom, Dae-su is approached by a beggar that hands him a cell phone and a wallet filled with money. The phone rings, and on the other end is a voice that challenges the old drunkard to uncover the reason for his imprisonment, not knowing that the mysterious figure is pulling the strings.
“Oldboy” never fails to test your nerves throughout, and the events that follow will continuously make you question whether the movie is satire or shock exploitation. But director Park is very serious about the film’s themes and doesn't hold back from inudating the audience with graphic imagery. In one scene, Oh Dae-su battles a gang of mobsters with a knife still stuck in his back and using only a hammer as a weapon. The lengthy battle takes place in a small hallway reminiscent of a classic 8-bit video game, though American audiences will probably liken it more to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill: Volume One.”
Although the fight sequences in “Oldboy” are a lot rawer than the ones in "Kill Bill," the movie definitely follows a similar path as Tarantino’s revenge-drama. So it’s no surprise that the Asian cinema fanboy led the jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in awarding the film the Grand Jury Prize. Chan-wook Park deserves all the acclaim he's received for his work behind the camera, but leading man Min-Sik Choi is just as worthy thanks to his fantastic turn as the tragic Oh Dae-su. Visually enthralling and cleverly plotted, “Oldboy” is a one-of-a-kind revenge film that's already earned the right to be called a cult classic.
The single-disc release for the Korean shock-drama fincludes a decent amount of bonus material for the DVD nerd in us all. Highlighted by a full-length audio commentary track with director Chan-wook Park and cinematographer Jeong-hun Jeon, the DVD also features an interview with the director, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and the IFILM DVD trailer contest winner.