OLD BOY:One of the best films of the last decade

An incredible thriller that relentlessly heaps taboos on top of images of extreme brutality, "Oldboy" is surely not for the squeamish. The film by Korean director Park Chanwook is a visually beguiling trip that keeps pulling you along and keeps you wondering what fresh hell could possibly come next. And that makes it considerably more compelling than a lot of the latest from Hollywood.

















South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook directed this violent and offbeat story of punishment and vengeance. Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is a husband and father whose reputation for womanizing is well known. One day, for reasons he doesn't understand, Oh Dae-su finds himself locked up in a prison cell, with no idea of what his crime was or whom his jailers may be. With a small television as his only link to the outside world and a daily ration of fried dumplings as his only sustenance, Oh Dae-su 
struggles to keep his mind and body intact, but when he learns through a news report that his wife has been killed, he begins a long and difficult project of digging an escape tunnel with a pair of chopsticks. Before he can finish -- and after 15 years behind bars -- Oh Dae-su is released, with as little explanation as when he was locked up, and he's soon given a wad of money and a cellular phone by a bum on the street. Emotionally stunted but physically strong after 15 years in jail, Oh Dae-su struggles to unravel the secret of who is responsible for locking him up, what happened to his wife and daughter, and how to best get revenge against his captors. Oldeuboi was screened in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and won the coveted Grand Prix. 





"Oldboy" is a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare.


I am not an expert on the Korean cinema, which is considered in critical circles as one of the most creative in the world ("Oldboy" won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes 2004). I can say that of the Korean films I've seen, only one ("The YMCA Baseball Club") did not contain extraordinary sadomasochism. "Oldboy" contains a tooth-pulling scene that makes Laurence Olivier's Nazi dentist in "Marathon Man" look like a healer. And there is a scene during which an octopus is definitely harmed during the making of the movie.
These scenes do not play for shock value, but are part of the whole. Oh has been locked up for 15 years without once seeing another living person. For him the close presence of anyone is like a blow to all of his senses. When he says in a restaurant, "I want to eat something that is alive," we understand (a) that living seafood is indeed consumed as a delicacy in Asia, and (b) he wants to eat the life, not the food, because he has been buried in death for 15 years.