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Overall Rating
3.39

Awesome43.23%
Worth A Look: 14.19%
Just Average: 9.68%
Pretty Crappy: 4.52%
Sucks: 28.39%

10 reviews, 95 user ratings


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Oldboy (2005)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Actually Lives Up to (and Exceeds) the Fanboy Hype"
5 stars

Make no mistake about it, the new Korean film “Oldboy” is not a movie for the faint-of-heart. There are things in this film that will shock and stun even the most jaded connoisseurs of kink, twists that will perplex even the biggest know-it-alls and it ends with a mind-bending gut-punch that somehow manages to trump all of the twisted sights that have already been seen. I’m not trying to scare you off from seeing this film–far from it, because this is the rare Asian film import that lives up to the advanced fanboy hype–but I am warning you that anyone expecting an easily digestible cinematic McNugget will doubtlessly wind up perplexed and disturbed by the sights that director Chan-wook Park has chosen to share with viewers. I’ll put it this way: if you have even vaguely contemplated going to see “Miss Congeniality 2,” then “Oldboy” is not for you.

Much of the power of the film derives from the astonishing twists and turns of the plot, so while I promise to tread lightly, some of you may want to check out of this paragraph. The film opens on Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi), an average businessman who goes off on a drunken bender one evening instead of making it home for his young daughter’s birthday. Something happens and when he wakes up the next morning, he finds himself locked away in what appears to be a hotel room furnished with, among other things, a television informing him that his wife has been murdered and that he is now missing and considered the prime suspect. This is bad news, but nothing compared to the fact that the room turns out to be his home for the next fifteen years. At that time, just as suddenly, he wakes up on the roof of a strange building with money, nice clothes and a cell phone. From the latter, Dae-su is informed by a mysterious voice that he is responsible for his imprisonment and that he has five days to figure out who his tormentor is and why this has been done to him. This sets Dae-su off on a frantic search of his past to try to think of whom he could have wronged to deserve such treatment; along the way, he encounters such oddities as a suicidal man who proves to be his first human contact in fifteen years, a sweet sushi chef (Hye-jeong Kang) who provides both support and a shoulder to cry on (among other things), any number of unspeakable secrets and what will no doubt go down as the most unforgettable cinematic sequence involving a squid since “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”

On the surface, “Oldboy” may seem like a film geek cinematic smoothie in which the entire filmographies of Takeshi Miike, Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino have been chucked into a blender and pureed. And yet, there is more to the film than giddily grotesque visceral thrills (though there are plenty of those to be had). Chan-wook Park has come up with a doozy of a storyline–one so convoluted and quirky that it comes as no surprise to learn that it scored the Special Jury prize from the Tarantino-led group that judged last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but he has also laced it with plenty of political and social commentary that viewers can take or leave, depending on how they see fit. In plot-driven films like this, the characters are so busy being jerked around by the machinations of the plot that they cease to become interesting as people; here, Min-sik Choi and Hye-jeong Kang manages to come up with three-dimensional characters that you actually care about. As a result, the final scene, which could have simply come off as a meaningless excursion into nihilism, has the kind of genuinely emotional wallop that hasn’t been seen in a film like this since “Blow Out.”

“Oldboy,” like such recent landmarks as “Memento,” “Mulholland Drive” and “Femme Fatale,” takes viewers on a wild ride that, once seen, will not be forgotten soon. Of course, like so many Pacific Rim hits of recent years, it has been scheduled for its own American remake, reportedly to star Nicolas Cage. I can see why someone would want to remake it–stories this strong don’t come along every day–but I can’t imagine that version, no matter what its qualities, having even a fraction of the raw power or impact on display here. Since it is a foreign film, there is a good chance that many of you in America, at least those not near a major city) may find it difficult to track down “Oldboy”; I can assure you, though, that no matter what lengths you have to go through to see, the film is more than worth the effort.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10328&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/25/05 02:01:06
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival. For more in the 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/11/15 Christian Paulson Hammertime! 5 stars
5/08/12 Marty Bold twists, sick story with good acting. Some parts not needed for main plot. 4 stars
8/12/11 jiropan classic disturbing film............excellent plotlines......... 5 stars
1/25/11 Keireki Sorry, movie was shit. 1 stars
12/30/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Might be the most inventive, offbeat and imaginative movie of 2003 5 stars
9/22/10 stam JUST EPIC 5 stars
4/17/10 PAUL SHORTT TENSE, VIOLENT AND UNPLEASANT 2 stars
3/26/10 tina incest!!!!!! ewwww, i think they have lots of problems to film something like that 1 stars
2/21/10 Langano Brilliant. 5 stars
9/22/09 Blind n Retarded not set in tokyo. not a waitress. not his girlfriend. 4 stars
8/10/09 menten shocked... in a good way. one and only in the world. 5 stars
4/16/09 Total Crap I love asian extreme films, this has one of the sickest twists I've ever seen in a movie. 4 stars
8/05/08 Bnorm Dae Su was a beast he fucked up like 30 dudes with nothing but a hammer and his fists! 5 stars
5/15/08 Marlow You feel sick to stomach but there's no denying the movie is impressive 5 stars
5/29/07 Charles Tatum Sucks you right in, with an ending Americans would never dare do 5 stars
3/27/07 MP Bartley Crazy stuff, that strains plausibility by the end. Mostly grandly and vividly entertaining. 4 stars
2/13/07 Double M STYLISH, SICK and EASILY misunderstood. Choi gives 1 of the BEST performances EVER filmed. 5 stars
1/04/07 Eric P. Amazing revenge flick. 5 stars
12/04/06 Leslie i liked Sympathy for Lady Vengeance better. But Mr. Choi's acting is excellent!! 4 stars
10/12/06 Hoggydog STOP POSTING SPOILERs! COUGHtrigger happy. good movie. 5 stars
9/13/06 Stubby Expertly-crafted, but...ugh...that ending. 3 stars
8/19/06 Dyll This film was wicked. Brilliantly written. Don't believe the naysayers. 5 stars
5/25/06 malcolm classic revenge flick. i'm surprised, but glad, no american has redone this one 5 stars
4/24/06 Furuta One of the best films ever!!! 5 stars
3/11/06 Rick Yamakoshi A visual and moral assault on the senses. 5 stars
2/20/06 Agent Sands Truly unbelievable. One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. 5 stars
1/19/06 ChappyX Park's SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE is heads and shoulders above this letdown of a film. 1 stars
1/11/06 TriggerHappy That daughter fucking shit is just disturbing as hell... 1 stars
1/05/06 SlappytheFrog Amazing first hour, followed by a much-less-interesting one and a sucky ending. Meh. 3 stars
11/25/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME... YOU GUYS DON'T KNOW A GOOD FILM WHEN YOU SEE ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/22/05 hibbyX Will you people get off the hallway fight already?! It was NOT that great! Geeeeeeeeeez!! 2 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Brilliant. One sequence is jaw-dropping. Matrix what? 4 stars
11/20/05 skippy A few good scenes, a whole lotta crappy ones. No sale. 1 stars
11/20/05 Kibble I really didn't see what the big deal was, other than the incest and octopus-eating. 1 stars
11/05/05 Sin-Jin Smyth Yeah, TPS is right...excellently-made crap. 1 stars
11/01/05 mind dump Is vengeance worth it? Yes...therefore, this film is shit. 1 stars
11/01/05 shackle Dae su deserved vengeance and no only did he not get it...he got fucked over even worse!!!! 1 stars
10/28/05 JesseKnobs I agree...well-made but not very entertaining and really fucking sick. 1 stars
10/28/05 TPS stunningly made and truly aweful to watch 2 stars
10/25/05 Crumbcake Daughter fucking...ew. 1 stars
10/23/05 Suk-R-Punch Like a joke with no punchline? No...just like a joke. 1 stars
10/18/05 Gumbo I agree that this was totally pointless. The end was not only gross, but meaningless. 1 stars
10/16/05 Crapture GARBAGE, WORST REVENGE FILM EVER MADE...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
10/15/05 OodlesofOs The most pointless film ever made. Like a joke with no punchline, but another joke setup. 1 stars
10/13/05 gasp Shitty movie meets shitty movie meets dorky fanboys who love what others tell them to!!!!!! 1 stars
10/12/05 Agent Sands The Road Warrior meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Saw meets Fight Club. 5 stars
10/12/05 Bryant Gumby Best revenge film, despite the fact that no revenge was actually had by the main character? 1 stars
10/11/05 Johnny Cake ...and this is entertaining...how?? 1 stars
10/11/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME, BEST REVENGE FILM EVER MADE...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/10/05 Biz-e This should have been called LAMEBOY. 1 stars
9/22/05 Jakub Watch AUDITION instead... 1 stars
9/18/05 mung He eats a squid and fucks his daughter...there, you don't need to see this now. Overrated! 1 stars
9/11/05 Bloodclot critics like dung 1 stars
9/06/05 Bitchum The hallway fight was great! It was everything else that licked twat... 1 stars
9/05/05 JubJub I think this is the most overrated movie of all-time. 1 stars
9/03/05 Tjalda L. Schiel What a disgusting mess. What is wrong with you critics? Ugh. 1 stars
9/03/05 Craven I really didn't see what the big god damn deal was. I thought it blew. 1 stars
9/02/05 Mailk By the end, you feel as bad as that poor squid. 1 stars
9/01/05 Edward This was like dining upon a big, massive elephant turd. 1 stars
8/31/05 unlimited this is the most schizophrenic movie i've ever seen...'couldn't decide what it wanted to be 2 stars
8/30/05 Vasquez do you guys really watch these movies or do you just praise them based on what others say? 1 stars
8/29/05 Brisbane Possibly the most unpleasant movie I've ever sat through. 1 stars
8/28/05 Blissful Johnny Chan-wook Park: Korea's answer to Tarantino...only without that pesky talent stuff. 1 stars
8/28/05 Jabberjaw The ending was just too disgusting for me...plus, I wanted Dae-su to triumph, but he didn't 1 stars
8/27/05 hicks You loved this because everyone told you to, lapdogs. 1 stars
8/27/05 Joker What was the big deal about THIS?!?!?! 1 stars
8/26/05 cam-ron As good as everyone says...only the opposite of that. 1 stars
8/25/05 Termite There are a ton of amazing Korean films worth seeing and discussing, this isn't one of them 1 stars
8/24/05 Copper No squid, no hallway fight, no incest = no one would even mention it. 1 stars
8/24/05 salamone All the people who recommended this to me got a punch in the neck the next morning. CRAP!! 1 stars
8/22/05 MC Serch People who say "Best Movie of the Year" obviously didn't see any other movies that year. 1 stars
8/21/05 Chumscrubber God, this film is the very definition of the word OVERRATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
8/20/05 marv If the point was "revenge is bad," why does the bad guy get away with HIS revenge? Huh???? 1 stars
8/20/05 Rever_Bear-Trap Possibly, one of the finest definitions of a psychological/revenge flick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/19/05 Cardigan Geez, what film were YOU all watching? Because I'd love to see THAT one, instead of this. 1 stars
8/19/05 Gaston POOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
8/18/05 JiJi What a lame, disappointing ending. Ruined the whole experience for me. 3 stars
7/05/05 Mike The sort of film that stays with you long after you watch it 5 stars
6/29/05 cristeen69 liked the film, thought it was good, especially ji tae, incetuous overtone 4 stars
6/18/05 aldo ..not much action..story is complex...the end is disgusting 2 stars
5/31/05 Scott Reynolds Get Hammered!! 4 stars
5/16/05 Shawn Borucki Nails you in the head with a hammer. Seems predictible until it changes on a drop of a dime 4 stars
4/15/05 Jozev I felt sick after watching it but I love the creativity and the cinematography. 5 stars
4/12/05 Junior LaRoche Best movie of 2004!!!! 5 stars
4/06/05 Roderick Cromar Too horrific to be called entertainment. That octopus..... 2 stars
3/28/05 KD Like drilling your skull AND getting shot in the balls 1 stars
3/22/05 The Mockingbird terriffic sick surprising complex movie 5 stars
3/12/05 Mike An instant classic. 5 stars
2/25/05 James Kiang Excellent, though the big revelation makes it difficult to blindly recommend. 4 stars
2/13/05 neonjazz Absolutely, undoubtably a masterpiece! 5 stars
2/12/05 Niklas Salonen Absolutely no Good 2 stars
2/08/05 Chris C Amazing Movie, loved it!! 5 stars
11/02/04 Derek Horrible! Extravagant! Superb! A masterpeace! 5 stars
9/18/04 John it was a great movie. Highly Recommended 5 stars
9/01/04 Gavin Peach Excellent! I love Chan Wook Park's films and this is another truimph! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  25-Mar-2005 (R)
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010

UK
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