OLD BOY (Korean)

Genre: Thriller
Director: PARK Chan-wook
CHOI Min-sik, YOO Ji-tae, GANG hye-jung
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: Festive Films and UIP
Rating: R21

Release Date: 14 October 2004

Synopsis :

One day in 1988, an ordinary man named OH Dae-su, who lives with his wife and an adorable baby daughter, is kidnapped right in front of his house. He later wakes up to find himself in a private makeshift prison. While suffering from his debacle, Dae-su becomes shocked when he watches the news and hears that his beloved wife was brutally murdered. The police suspects Dae-su to be the murderer after finding his blood on the murder site. Shocked by the news, Dae-su examines his arm and finds a needle mark. Dae-su makes an attempt to commit suicide, but it ends up in failure. As time passes, he begins to write down all the things that he had done which might have brought trouble or pain to other people. He mutters to himself, “I hurt too many people … And I’m sure the man who imprisoned me and murdered my wife is one of them…” Since then, Dae-su adjusts to the cell’s darkness while training his mind and body. He swears to take revenge on the man who destroyed his happy life. By the time Dae-su’s whole body becomes covered with tattoos, revealing his long sentence, sleeping gas is sprayed into the room and Dae-su passes out.

Coming to his senses, Dae-su discovers that he’s been released with a wallet filled with cash and a mobile phone. While he eats in a Japanese restaurant, a strange man calls Dae-su and asks him to figure out why he was imprisoned. After the guy hangs up the phone, Dae-su falls down unconscious and later wakes up in someone’s home. It belongs to a young woman named Mido, a cook working in the Japanese restaurant he was eating at. Dae-su talks to Mi-do about his 15 years in confinement, and Mido cries for sympathy and promises to help him seek vengeance. With Mido’s help, Dae-su begins to visit various people who might have a grudge against him. But all his efforts come up short.

One day, a guy, who has an I.D. called Evergreen, contacts Mido while she’s chatting on the Internet. He asks her to say hello to Dae-su for him. Later, Dae-su finally finds the private prison he was confined in. There, he discovers a cassette with a recording that only says… “Imprison OH Dae-su for 15 years. He talks too much…” Short on clues, Dae-su starts tracking down the guy with the Evergreen I.D. The lead bears fruit as he finally runs face to face with his kidnapper. The culprit tells Dae-su that he’ll never find out why he was imprisoned if Dae-su kills him now, so instead, the kidnapper proposes a game. The man tells Dae-su that if he discovers the real reason why within five days, then he will kill himself. If not, he will kill Mido, the girl who helps Dae-su.

In order to evade tails and any wiretapping, Dae-su and Mido seek refuge in a cheap motel, and have a passionate night together. The following day, Dae-su visits a high school named, Evergreen High School, based on the clue, “Evergreen”.

In the school, Dae-su finds a photo of his kidnapper in the album. His name is LEE Woo-jin and he has a sister called LEE Soo-ah. Dae-su finally remembers the day when he witnessed Woo-jin and Soo-ah making love in a warehouse in the school, and later told his friend what he saw. After that day, word got around the whole school, and Soo-ah killed herself from torment. Dae-su rushes to Woo-jin’s house and tells Woo-jin to kill himself since he finally discovered the reason why he was imprisoned. But unexpectedly, Woo-jin hands a package to Dae-su. Trembling with fear, Dae-su unties the package and hidden secrets about Dae-su and Mido’s relationship are revealed…



Based on a Japanese Manga "Old boy" by Minegishi Nobuaki and Tsuchiya Garon, South Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park, director of previous films like Joint Security Area, 1/3 of Three..Extreme, brings us the second in a projected trilogy about revenge. This installment definitely outdoes the 1st, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”, in more ways than one.

In a nut shell, this is a story about a business man who was kidnapped, imprisoned for 15 years without knowing who and why. He is suddenly released one day to be given 5 days to find out. Don’t be put off by the simplicity of the plot, this emotional and psychological tour de force worked superbly well because of its directing, editing and dialog. One would expect a lot of action sequence and over the top violent scenes to accompany, but Park chose this time to make the movie character more driven than violent and it works. Performance by the cast like Kang Hye-Jeong as the love interest is simply adorable with a touch of innocence and ambiguity. Choi Min-Sik is simply fantastic as Oh Dae-Sue which really disturbed me ( and made me worry a little to his mental state when all of this is over ) for giving it all in his roller-coaster journey from drunken businessman, to vengeance hunter, then an emotional victim to his tormentor, and finally redeemed. An award for best actor in the Grand Bell Awards in South Korea says it all.

All you gore and violent fans out there who are hungry for some action, fret not, as you’ll be given enough share of squeamish sequences and intense blood splatter in this R21 rated film. Scenes like the personalized dentistry scene would definitely make anyone squirm in their seat, and the 3 min, single shot, hammer showdown is sheer cinematic brilliance. I could have sweared that the hammer was real and made contact! And not forgetting the infamous raw meal devouring, the meal itself should have been in the credits for its performance. Definitely not for the faint hearted.

Aside from that, although this is an action-revenge thriller, Chan-wook Park maintains a blackly comic tone that's both unnerving and endearing to his latest creation. The script is cleverly directed to reveal secrets slowly, making discoveries and connections right up to the final shocking twist in the end with style. Being true to its emotional core makes the film special - a stream of sadness, vulnerability, grisly revelation and even with its melodramatic end makes this gem of a puzzle madness shine in its awe. Just watching its pieces fall into place is a real stunner.
A definite cult hit for movie goers with a taste of something different.

Movie Rating:

Review by Lokman B S

  Publicity Stills of "Old Boy"
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