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Oldboy
  |     review    |     notes     |     awards     |     availability     |



Notes:

• A remake is in the works by Better Luck Tomorrow writer/director Justin Lin, who will co-write the script with his BLT collaborators, Ernesto Forononda and Gabian Marquez. According to several entertainment websites, Nicholas Cage has expressed interest in playing the lead role.
• Based on the manga by Minegishi Nabuaki and Tsuchiya Garon.
• It took three days to shoot the single-take corridor brawl sequence.
• Four live squids were eaten to create the infamous sushi bar scene.
• Choi Min-Sik trained for over a month for the part and did his own stunt work.
• Considered by many to be the second part in a loose trilogy of films that starts with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and concludes with Park Chan-Wook's forthcoming film.
• Nearly every song title on the film's soundtrack is a reference to a noir movie or novel: The Big Sleep; Farewell, My Lovely; Out of the Past, Point Blank, etc.

• In North America, Tartan owns the rights to Oldboy.

Awards:

2004 British Independent Film Awards
• Nomination - Best Foreign Film
2004 Cannes Film Festival
• Winner Grand Jury Prize
• Nomination Palm D'Or
2004 European Film Awards
• Nomination - Screen International Award
2004 Grand Bell Awards (South Korea)
Winner - Best Director (Chan Park-Wook)
Winner - Best Actor (Choi Min-Sik)
Winner - Editing (Kim Sang-Beom)
Winner - Lighting (Park Hyun-Won)
Winner - Music (Jo Yeong-wook)

Availability:

DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Limited Edition
Starmaz
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Trailers, TV Spots, Behind the Scenes Featurettes, Photo Gallery

DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
3-Disc Ultimate Edition
Starmax
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Numerous Extras including Four Audio Commentaries, Trailers, TV Spots, Behind the Scenes Footage, 50-page booklet, soundtrack CD, Copper box

DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Final Edition
Starmax
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Numerous Extras including Four Audio Commentaries, Trailers, TV Spots, Behind the Scenes Footage

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

Find this at YesAsia.com

 
Korean: 올드 보이
Year: 2003
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Producer: Sid Lim, Kim Dong-Joo
Cast: Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-Tae, Kang Hye-Jung
The Skinny: A critically-acclaimed tale of revenge from the director of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Stylish and visceral, Oldboy is both a modern tragedy and a contemporary classic.

  Review by Calvin McMillin:

Few films pack the visual and visceral punch of Oldboy, the award-winning Korean revenge drama from Park Chan-Wook. The stylish direction and intriguing premise make this one film worth watching. And what a premise! Early in the film, we are introduced to Oh Daesu (Choi Min-Sik), a boorish drunkard cooling off in a police station. After being bailed out by an old friend, Daesu calls home to wish his daughter a happy birthday. But not long after turning the phone over to his comrade, Daesu is kidnapped. Soon he finds himself imprisoned in a room. Why? For what reason? By whom? And how long does he have to stay? None of these questions are answered for Daesu. And clearly, it's the "not knowing" that's killing him. Talk about having a bad day.

With the television as his sole connection to the outside world, Oh Daesu can do little more than watch helplessly as the news program reports the death of his wife. And thanks to his disappearance, Oh Daesu just so happens to be the prime suspect in her murder. With no meaningful human contact, no sunlight, no sex (with others anyway) and no idea of when he'll be released, Oh Daesu eventually decides to not only physically train himself, but to secretly take some Shawshank Redemption-style measures to escape his captivity.

His stay, however, turns out to be more prolonged than he could have possibly imagined. Fifteen years after he was first imprisoned, Daesu is surprised to be suddenly released back into the world. Given a cell phone, a wallet full of cash, a new set of clothes, and some nifty sunglasses, Daesu realizes he must maneuver through the "bigger prison" of urban Korea and find his captor. Luckily (Unluckily) for him, Lee Woo-Jin (Yoo Ji-Tae), the man responsible for Daesu's imprisonment, is more than willing to play a twisted game of cat and mouse with him.

Not long after being released, Daesu meets Mido (Kang Hye-Jung), a cute sushi chef, who in many ways is a lonely kindred spirit. Mido takes pity on Daesu and helps him search for his daughter, visit his wife's grave, and discover the identity of his nemesis. A series of serpentine events leads Daesu back to the prison and even closer to the truth. But even as he comes face to face with the man responsible for stealing his life, Daesu realizes that if he kills Woo-Jin, he'll never know why. As the villain tells him: "What I am isn't important. Why is important." But as Daesu learns, imprisonment was only half of it. If revenge is a dish best served cold, Lee Woo-Jin's unique brand of vengeance has to be the coldest one in cinema history. It's certainly one of the most perverse.

Fans of Fight Club will probably be thrilled with Oldboy. The look and tone of the film is strongly reminiscent of David Fincher's seminal work. The color palette, the camera setups, the use of subtitles, the playful "connect the dots" imagery, not to mention the "shocker" ending all echo that trademark Fincher style. That's not to suggest that Oldboy is simply an imitation; there's originality here, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the film seems to be tapping into the same dark places as Fight Club, Seven, and The Game.

Speaking of darkness, one of the more interesting aspects of the film pertains to its depiction of violence. Although Oldboy is widely considered to be an ultra-violent film, in actuality, it's fairly tame gore-wise. It's the way in which the sequences are set up and shot—and the inherent tension packed into them—that creates the impression of violent content when, for the most part, no such gratuitousness actually exists in the film. Consider it the Texas Chainsaw Massacre effect; people come out of the theatre thinking the film is gorier than it actually is. The talent to pull off such sensory sleight of hand is, in some respects, one mark of an effective artist.

And as the film unfolds, its underlying message about violence becomes clear. As one character states, "Seeking revenge has become a part of me." The film explores the question, "What else is there to live for once vengeance has been satisfied?" In the case of Oh Daesu and Lee Woo-Jin, the answers differ sharply.

That isn't to say that there isn't out-and-out violence in the film at all. The gritty corridor fight scene in which Oh Daesu takes on all comers in a one-take brawl is a marvel to watch. But nobody's doing any exaggerated wire fu. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any staged choreography at all. (Though there had to be some; it's still a movie after all.) In the corridor battle royale, the combatants seem awkward and more than a little frightened while duking it out with Oh Daesu, giving the scene a sense of realism lacking in other, less successfully-staged action sequences.

The performances in the film are spot-on, particularly those from the two leads. Choi Min-Sik transforms himself before our eyes as Oh Daesu, beginning the film as a drunken fool then metamorphosing himself into the tough-as-nails, vengeance-seeking ass kicker of the second half of the film. As Lee Woo-Jin, actor Yoo Ji-Tae serves as the perfect foil to the protagonist. Although elegant and refined, Yoo imbues the character with the palpable sense of menace necessary in portraying the all-seeing warden in Daesu's new urban prison.

Despite its twist and turns, Oldboy is one of the rare films that doesn't rely solely on a shock ending. In fact, even if you figure out the twist, you're in for an enhanced viewing experience because it allows you to stay several steps ahead of the characters, a quality that might blow the tension of a normal thriller, but only serves to create a looming sense of dramatic irony—the kind not seen since the days of Greek tragedy. Granted, using hypnosis as a deus ex machina to resolve the film's major "issue" is contrived as all such devices are, but by having a character break out in an ambiguous smile in the final scene, Chan Wook-Park complicates any notion of having a pat Hollywood ending, suggesting that perhaps the magical cure-all did not actually take effect. Oldboy is the rare film that can not only thrill you, but make you uncomfortable (especially when you get to the end). And while it may not be the feel good movie of the year, Oldboy is certainly one of the better films around, and quite possibly, a modern classic. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)

 
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