Blindspot 2014: Oldboy

oldboyThis month I watched South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s 2003 revenge thriller Oldboy.  Businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped and locked away in a hotel-like prison, while also finding out that he has been framed for the murder of his wife.  After being locked away for 15 years, Oh Dae-su is suddenly released and he teams up with Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), the chef of a sushi restaurant, to find his captor and reveal why Oh Dae-su lost 15 years of his life. Oldboy is the second entry of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, which also includes 2002’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and 2005’s Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.  With all three films popping up this month on Netflix Canada, I was tempted to expand my blindspot selection for the month and watch and write about all three films.  However, since I found myself short on time, I ultimately decided to go with my original plan of Oldboy. I admit that I had some pretty high expectations for Oldboy going into the film.  I kept on hearing nothing but praise for the film and I was a huge fan of, Park Chan-wook’s English language debut, Stoker from last year.  After seeing the film, I can say that Oldboy turned out to be a much different film than I expected it to be.  While I had the impression that Oldboy was a violent action film, it is really much more about the mystery of why Oh Dae-su found himself imprisoned for 15 years.  I think that my misconception stems from the film’s most infamous scene, which has Oh Dae-su fighting off men in a corridor with a hammer.  This is probably the film’s biggest action set-piece, though it happens less than halfway through the film.  That isn’t to say that there isn’t violence throughout the rest of the film, it just seemed much more isolated than this action scene, with much of it being kept off camera.  That said, there are still a few cringe-inducing moments in the film.  Also, there’s a scene of Oh Dae-su eating a live octopus, which isn’t violent per se, but is a bit on the gross side. It would be hard to talk too specifically about the plot of Oldboy without getting into spoilers, but I will say that the mystery of why Oh Dae-su was imprisoned builds up to a big revelation in the final act.  I admit that I was accidently spoiled to the film’s twist prior to watching, though it is also a revelation that can be figured out by closely observing the plot. Oldboy is a film that I wish that I was able to see without any expectations.  I thought overall that the film was OK enough, but it definitely did not meet the expectation brought upon by the constant praise that the film receives.  Perhaps I would understand the praise more on a rewatch, but right now I am just shrugging Oldboy off. That said, I am curious now to watch last year’s remake to see what changed and what stayed the same.7 | FAIR 

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).