Oldboy (2003)

oldboy poster 2003 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Shocking ending, great action scenes

Might be too violent/twisted for some

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Oldboy

Studio:  Show East

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  November 21, 2003

MPAA Rating:  R

oldboy oh dae su choi min sik hallway hammer fight

Oh Dae-su is having a bad 15 years…

Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is a husband, father, a businessman, and he sometimes drinks too much.  When he wakes up in a single room apartment after a night out with a friend No Joo-hwan (Ji Dae-han), he discovers that he’s a prisoner.  He has no idea who is holding him or why, but the prison he is in has no means of escape or contact with other people.  Years pass, and Oh Dae-su finds himself released just as mysteriously as he was captured.  His life is gone and now he is out to find out who stole his life from him and why.  Teamed with a restaurant worker named Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), Oh Dae-su is finding his past might hold the key…and a man who is haunting him (Yoo Ji-tae) holds the answers.

Directed by Park Chan-wook, Oldboy (올드보이 or Oldeuboi or Oldŭboi) is a comic-book action-mystery thriller.  The South Korean film is based on the Japanese manga Old Boy (1996-1998) by Garon Tsuchiya.  It is considered the second part of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy following Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and followed by Lady Vengeance (2005).  The film won the Grand Prix at Cannes and has gained a cult following since its release.

oldboy oh dae su choi min sik octopus eating scene

Are you allowed to play with your food if your food plays with you?

Fortunately, I saw Oldboy before I knew anything about it.  I had heard it was a good (and violent) film, and that there was some sort of twist…but that was it.  Oldboy is a rollercoaster of action and almost sheer terror.  Due to the twist of the movie, the review has a ******spoiler alert****** for the rest of the review.

While the movie is an action movie, it is a bigger horror movie than most horror movies.  The course of the film has the imprisoned Oh Dae-su fighting an uphill battle against the mental crisis that his imprisonment caused.  He has gone from successful to someone who has nothing…and also has nothing to lose.  This makes him dangerous and deadly.  He is a wild card type of character that want revenge for what happened to him…but he doesn’t realize it is “still” happening to him.

oldboy 2003 choi min sik kang hye jeong yoo ji tae gas mask incest

Three’s a crowd

As the movie progresses the character played Yoo Ji-tae continues to taunt and provoke Oh Dae-su as he gets closer and closer to Yoo Ji-tae’s identity.  Yoo Ji-tae obviously wants to be caught, but he also is playing a game with Oh Dae-su.  In the final sequence, it is revealed that the whole release was a set-up and the woman Oh Dae-su has been sleeping with is his daughter.  There are so many ways that the movie can go, but Oh Dae-su chooses to cut out his own tongue and undergo hypnosis to forget what he has learned…and continues his sexual relationship with his daughter.  It is horrific on so many levels and the Lee Woo-jin character essentially wins.

Choi Min-sik is great as Oh Dae-su.  The start of the movie has him being a flabby, unimpressive businessman, but through the course of the movie, Choi Min-sik becomes a fighting monster.  He doesn’t seem like a traditional action hero, but he can stand toe-to-toe with the other big guns.  Kang Hye-jung is the girl that seemingly is willing to accept this strange homeless man into her life (this of course is revealed to be part of the hypnosis).  Their match-up doesn’t make sense early in the movie, but the end reveal makes their relationship and their odd interaction work.  Yoo Ji-tae comes off as rather evil, and it is fitting that his incestuous relationship with his sister started off all the horror.

oldboy 2003 hallway fight scene

It’s Hammertime!

The movie is very visual and kinetic.  The style of the film is great and the centerpiece fight of Choi Min-sik in a hallway feels like it has been copied and imitated many times since.  It is ruthless and graphic, and like most of the movie, it is shocking…Oldboy is something that you’ll remember when you see it from the eating of the octopus to cutting out of the tongue.

Oldboy is a hard movie to watch at points.  You feel bad for almost all the characters involved and what has happened to them due to teenage mistakes.  The movie deserves the praise it gets and instead of creating a vigilante hero, it manages to make a more tragic figure from Oh Dae-su than you’d expect.  Oldboy did receive an American remake in 2013 starring Josh Brolin and directed by Spike Lee…but stick to the original.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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