Film Review: IMDbinge - Oldboy (2003)

Film Review: IMDbinge - Oldboy (2003)

Catherine's 2016 Challenge - watch all 250 of IMDb's top rated films. Today she reviews Korean film, Oldboy, now currently no. 66 on the list.

I attempted to watch Chan-wook Park’s South Korean cult classic Oldboy once before but it was one of those times when you’re with your partner and you actually decide you’re both too tired to commit to a film, especially something ‘heavy’, and one that requires a bit of reading. Since then, whilst having a conversation with someone, I let them spoil the end for me. I can’t remember the context and I knew I would watch it sometime but whatever they wanted to say I wanted to hear it. Luckily, I forgot what it was until I was watching it, about one second before the twist actually happens. It’s a good one.  

The film immediately grabs our attention with an opening shot of our main character, Oh Dae-su, dangling a man and his dog off the edge of a building by his tie. We soon find out that this moment comes at the point of his release from a fifteen-year imprisonment in a dank, windowless room, the reason for which he cannot fathom. His journey to find out who imprisoned him and why is, without mincing words, full of some screwed up stuff. It’s interesting, it’s nuanced and it’s full of all the charm I’m used to when watching foreign films – that's not to say, by any means, that all foreign films are similar but the lack of the mainstream tightrope that so many films are walking in Hollywood. At times desperate and exciting, it’s a breath of fresh air and I get sick of hearing that people saying they can’t ever be bothered to read subtitles because they’re really missing out. 

Oldboy

It’s a film full of artistic airs. It can be very poetic with a number of proverbs and aphorisms and sometimes a hint of the melodramatic but I tend to like that. This acts in stark contrast the film’s reputation for being quite violent – and it is, don’t get me wrong but it doesn’t so much feel like a part of the essence of the film until the very end when the proverbial crap hits the fan. The infamous fight scene in the corridor of his prison really bored me. It has been criticised before for being poorly choreographed but it’s the fact of it being one take and about two minutes long that bores me. I am by no means anti-violence and I love a film with a bit of action but the more action there is, the more I begin to switch off. 

Bar this, I think Oldboy is quite a masterpiece and I am slightly disappointed that, as usual, Hollywood decided to commandeer the story for a wholly unnecessary remake because anything remotely foreign is apparently completely unpalatable for a western audience. If it wasn’t a good movie in the first place perhaps I would have felt less animosity about it but it was and capitalising on this excellent story to make something that is inevitably going to be worse is as foolish and wrong as every time they do it.

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