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(In subtitled Korean)
118 minutes | Unrated
LIMITED: Friday, April 15, 2005
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Starring Min-sik Choi, Hye-jeong Kang
Brilliant, graphic Korean revenge thriller is packed with stunning action
According to some insiders, Park Chan-wook's "Oldboy" was just a hair away from winning the 2004 Palm D'Or that eventually went to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which is just as well. Now instead of being an international award winner, it's an extremely cool little gem that can be truly discovered by appreciative fans.
Bringing Asian cult films to a new level, this Korean import tells the hairy, gripping story of an ordinary businessman (Min-sik Choi) who suddenly disappears, having been kidnapped and kept in a single locked room for fifteen years without explanation. When he is finally released, he has one thing on his mind: to find out why.
His entire appearance has now changed, which is just one small accomplishment in a great performance by Choi. No longer a tubby drunk in a cheap suit, he's now a lean, haunted, animal-like stoic capable of battling a platoon of bad guys in a long narrow hallway. In one of the film's most astonishing scenes, he does just that, with the camera tracking slowly to the right for the entire duration of this several minute-long fight, as the hero pummels his way through his attackers to the elusive exit.
Of course he meets a girl, a sushi chef (Hye-jeong Kang), and at his peculiar request she serves him a live squid (which the actor actually eats). She takes to him immediately and helps him on his quest. I must admit that when "Oldboy's" carefully prepared revenge plot finally reveals itself in the end, I did not see it coming. Even if, for some reason, astute viewers do predict the ending, "Oldboy" still fills the screen with enough show-stopping images to put an entire circus out of work.