First of all. I must say that Oldboy is a crazy intense movie, NOT for the faint of heart or stomach, as far as visuals go.
Second, this was a brilliantly conceived, well made film.
This is the second in Chan-Wook Park’s revenge trilogy. I haven’t watched much Asian cinema, as I mentioned in my review of Hard Boiled, but I’m slowly getting into it, and liking it overall.
I knew that Oldboy was part of a trilogy, so I watched the first one, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and the final installment, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, is also on the Top 100 Modern Movie Classics list. They are tied only by the theme of revenge, which permeates them to their very darkest cores.
I was wary of Oldboy after watching Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, just because that film was rather convoluted and nearly incomprehensible in some places.
The plot of Oldboy is rather straightforward, which was a relief after the complex craziness of the first film. Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped for no apparent reason and held prisoner in a single room for 15 years, with no human contact whatsoever and is regularly drugged. One day, he is released with no explanation and is given a cell phone, some money, and less than a week to seek out his kidnapper and get revenge, or die trying. There is a BRILLIANT fight scene, not bloody but intense, that seemed like an old side-scrolling video game and worked to great effect. He eventually finds out who is behind his long imprisonment, and his revenge is not what it seems, and his ‘punishment’ may not be quite over.
I have to say that the ending was brilliant. I did not see it coming in the least, and it left me with my jaw on the floor and my mind somewhat violated.
Don’t watch this unless you’re prepared to have your mind worked over with a hammer, but I certainly appreciate from a storytelling point of view, the complex web of manipulation, betrayal, deception, and revenge that Chan-Wook Park has woven. I got hints of The Count of Monte Cristo at times, which I’m pretty sure was intended, but Alexandre Dumas didn’t have this in mind.