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South Korea 2003
Director: Chan-wook Park
During the past ten years, something interesting’s been happening in Asian films, particularly in the cult cinemas of Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. This ‘New Wave of Asian Cult Cinema’ represents some of the most interesting and innovative films in recent memory.
Oldboy mixes the violence and extreme morality of Miike with the thoughtfulness and tragedy of Kitano, creating a disturbing and contemplative mystery thriller, ultimately fascinating. Director Park has crafted an excellent example of modern filmmaking. The editing is sharp and clever, seamlessly blending both old and new techniques.
The fight sequences are some of the most believable since Fight Club, with nasty wet sound effects and realistic movements. Park also chooses to imply most of the nastiest violence, often with a wink and a nod. Unlike the films of Takashi Miike, for instance, the most disturbing moments are created in the viewer’s own mind.
The acting is excellent, with Min-sik Choi’s performance a standout. He is at once grim and menacing, yet endearing and pathetic. Physically, his performance is also outstanding. Choi seems like a totally different character at the beginning of the film; he’s almost unrecognisable later.
The plot of the film seems simple, almost deceptively so. There’s much more to the story than the posters convey. Oldboy is a mystery, a thriller, a comedy, a love story, a revenge fantasy and a tragedy. An easy way to describe it is ‘a Korean action film,’ but that would be like calling Ichi the Killer ‘a Japanese action film.’
See Oldboy expecting one thing and come away surprised; isn’t that what the best films do?Colin Le Sueur