The second installment in the popular Korean ‘Vengeance’ Trilogy, ‘Oldboy’ has a very heavy cult following around the world. Released in 2003, the film deals with some very dark, heavy subjects; Revenge being the thematic centerpiece for this narrative. Directed by Park Chan-wook, the film has received numerous awards and nominations. Based off the manga of the same name, then later remade into an American adaptation by Spike Lee, ‘Oldboy’ truly stands the test of time as a cinematic masterpiece.
For those that have never seen it, the movie follows our man character Oh Dae-Su, portrayed by Choi Min-sik as he is mysteriously imprisoned after a night of drinking on his daughter’s birthday. As time slowly passes, we learn that Dae-su has been framed for the murder of his wife, leaving his daughter’s whereabouts unknown. We really get a close look as Choi Min-sik truly makes us believe that this character is slowly spiraling into insanity. After multiple suicide attempts, Dae-su focuses his efforts on trying to find out why he was taken in the first place. As years pass in confinement, Dae-su begins to train himself for the day that finds his captor face to face.
After 15 years have passed, Dae-su is one day hypnotized and released back into the world, emerging from a large trunk that was left on top of a rooftop. While wandering and getting his bearings back, Dae-su encounters a homeless man that gives him a cellphone and a wallet filled with money, only to leave shortly after. Inside of a restaurant, Dae-su meets Mido, a young girl who takes a liking to him. While ordering food, the cellphone that he receives begins to ring. After running down the list of names of people he has wronged in the past, the man on the other line tells Dae-su that the “who isn’t important, but the why?”.
Soon after, Dae-Su passes out and awakes in Mido’s apartment. Mido helps Dae-su track down his daughter, who he learns had been adopted by Swiss parents after his wife’s death. Before tracking down his daughter, Dae-su must first find his captor, and make him pay for taking away his life. What ensues is one of the most interesting films that I have ever seen. It would seem that a lot of films and shows owe a lot to ‘Oldboy’, especially you fans of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil series. Fans of the “one-shot” action sequences featured throughout the series are heavily inspired by the film.
Also, it would seem that there is still a lot to learn from the film. M. Night Shyamalan could absolutely learn a thing or two about the proper use of a plot twist. ‘Oldboy’ features one of the most insane twists in movie history, it would be an absolute shame to discuss it any further than I already have. For any fan of deeply engaging, pschological thrillers, this movie will not let you down. Having seen this and the ‘Spike Lee Joint’, the only true way to experience it is by watching the original. Not to say that Spike Lee’s effort isn’t ok, but there are certain changes that were made that it really loses what makes the original so iconic and loved.