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A couple of answers that may be useful to understand this film better!!
kywoo712 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Hi! I am a South Korean national student here in London, and would like to give you some clues why the main character, Oh Dae-Soo, was kept in the private prison for exactly 15 years and why he ate the live octopus as I hope you all understand this film a little better.

Firstly, his wife was killed one year after his being kept in the privately run prison. Obviously, Oh Dae-Soo didn't kill her but was suspected of murdering her. It must be done by Lee Yu-Jin who planned to have his sister's revenge upon Oh Dae-Soo. In South Korea, criminals of unsolved crimes including murder cases are forgiven/overlooked by law 15 years after the crimes were committed, which means a murder suspect wouldn't be charged or get punished unless the suspect is caught within 15 years after the murder. This is why Oh Dae-Soo was released 15 years after his wife was killed. Thus, he wouldn't be disturbed by the police investigation and Lee Yu-Jin could play with him at his own discretion.

Secondly, nobody in the country eats live octopus like the way he ate in the film. It seems to me that the scene shows his uncontrollable anger against the man who he talked with on the phone and didn't say anything about the reasons why he was kept in the prison. If there was a piece of cake or a bowl of rice in front of him, I guess he would probably eat it in the same way he did with the octopus. So, please don't get it wrong that eating something alive is part of Korean culture. It should be understood itself in that extreme context.

I saw this film several times with my friends. I didn't quite understand it in the first view but came to like it in the second time and it's one of my favourites now. I like the complicated plot and the shocking ending. As I'm studying translation of English and Korean, most of my classmates and friends are English who spent some time in South Korean and they liked this one the most among other Korean films.

I hope my talk helps.
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If only we were all living in Asia....
bur_00719 December 2007
To start off; This is the one and only film that kept me quiet for a whole 5 mins after seeing it. I literally couldn't close my mouth, and yet there wasn't any sound coming out of it. Oldboy had such an impact on me that words are too little to describe that impact. Therefore this film is definitely in my top 3 films ever made. It belongs there because it has a massive ingredient that a lot of films seem to miss out on; a divine plot. Even though the acting and screenplay are world class, the plot is really the cherry on the cake.

When it comes to screenplay Park Chan-Wook is unique (at least for western standards) in his way of filming. The colours are so vivid and it seems like he wanted every shot to be a piece of art. One tip: If you like the shooting in 'Oldboy', have a look at 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance', the third part in Park's revenge-trilogy. It's even superior to the camera-work in 'Oldboy'. Don't, however, expect a story like Oldboy's, because you would be very disappointed.

When it comes to acting and the music, this film is also one of the better films ever made. The music sticks in your head and every time I put in my Oldboy-DVD and the theme-song comes up, I'm just flooded with good memories (even though the plot doesn't have a single reason to be happy about). The characters are also presented very well by the outstanding cast. Especially Choi Min-Sik and Yu Ji-Tae set a very convincing performance.

I really appreciate this film being respected as it should be, by having a place in the top 250. If, however, it was up to me it would be even higher in the ranking. I don't see why films like 'The Usual Suspects' or 'Memento', which are fantastic pieces of film-making and which without a doubt deserve a place in the top 250, are higher in the top 250 than 'Oldboy'. They serve the same cause; a fantastic plot. But those plots can't stand in the shadow or even come close to the plot of 'Oldboy'. The one and only reason is that those two films are better known and from a western production company. If we were all living in Asia, no doubt 'Oldboy' would be in the top 20 of all time.

My advice to people who haven't watched this film yet: Go see it! This is definitely a must- see. If you have a weak stomach, pull yourself together and still watch it. Don't be as shallow as a lot of people here tend to be. Look beyond the violence and see the things I mentioned before: world class acting, cinematography, music and last but certainly not least the plot. Once you've opened yourself up you'll find a whole new world of cinema. Enjoy!
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Freaked me out
Genevieve_X29 July 2007
I haven't written a comment on IMDb for about 3 years but was inspired to with this film. It is not very often that I come across a film by accident (World Movies on cable) and the spend the next day scouring the internet to find out information about it and can't get it out of my head! Anyway, yep there are plot holes, but Old boy borrows a lot from surrealism and you are meant to suspend your disbelief! I don't buy comments when people say "it is so unrealistic because he should've done this ..." because it is a surrealist film and meant to be unrealistic! For me the sign of a good film is if it sticks on your head! THis one surely does (althought I did have to look away a few times ... ) Loved it!!!! Work of cruel genius!!! (HOLLYWOOD - Please don't ruin it by remaking it!!!)
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Absolutely Sublime.......................................................
sqreader2 January 2007
I've scored this a 9 but I think I may have been a little harsh! I have just read a review that says the reviewer cannot understand the hype. I can see no hype. Everything the film promised and more was delivered. This is a truly wonderful film. It is beautifully acted, brutally and painstakingly directed and as good a display of raw emotion as I have witnessed in any language. The story is gripping, the characters believable and well rounded, the emotion human and the feeling I was left with at the end of the film is one of awe. And that was after I had watched it twice. Honestly, this is a truly, truly wonderful film. Do not miss it under any circumstances!
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Excellent in it's sickness
johnny-0822 July 2007
I looked at program for today and I saw movie "Oldboy". I read plot and I liked it. What I expected is decent thriller from very good South Korean cinematography,something like "Salinui chueok ". But once again I was wrong. "Oldboy" is masterpiece, so unusual from all other movies. I've seen lots of violence on screen and to me this isn't nothing new but I think that people under 18 really shouldn't watch this one. It's because movie is brutal and I don't think that younger ones would fully understand this one.

To say something about plot is quite impossible because I don't know where to begin. If I start talking about the movie I could tell few important things and I know that people often read other comments because they didn't watch that movie. So,I'm going to say only what I read before watching this movie.

On his daughter's birthday, Oh Dae-su gets drunk and soon he's arrested by the police. His best friend No Joo-hwan somehow manages to get him out of jail and when No Joo-hwan is making a phone call Oh Dae-su disappears. Someone kidnap's him and puts him into room during 15 long years.But one day he's released.

That's the plot. Very interesting, you should watch this movie and then judge it. By the rating on IMDb this movie is in top 250 movies. Now I can understand why. This plot that I wrote doesn't reveal the greatness of the people who wrote the script. I bow to them because this movie is so good, with all those twists and it really represents a whole new wave of making a movie, of writing a script and of acting in it. About direction and actors I can say only good things. Director Park Chan-wook won prize Grand Jury at Cannes. That's enough about direction part. About actors. I can say that I'm impressed by one actor:Choi Min-sik. He's amazing in major role and he showed great potential. I hope I will see him again in some good movie.

I cannot say anything more because I could reveal some secret and I don't wanna do that to all new viewers. Only a recommendation. Beautiful, intelligent masterpiece of movie that I highly recommend for everyone with strong stomach and too all of you who want to see one excellent, but sick story. 10/10
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A Korean Masterpiece
Desertman8426 November 2010
Oldboy is one hell of a movie. It is a film that is characterized by surrealism, gritty violence and raw emotion. The theme is about revenge and how it destroys one person. After viewing it, it left me silent for more than five minutes to contemplate on what I have seen. It was simply a masterpiece.

It has proved that Koreans are one of the most creative when it comes to cinema. But mind you, this film is not for everyone. Especially for the weak at heart. Aside from revenge, it touches subject on incest as well. Nevertheless, it is a MASTERPIECE.

The acting is world-class in this film. Choi Min-sik and Yu Ji-tae were simply amazing as Oh Daesu and Lee Woo-jin respectively. Credit should also be given to Gang Hye-jung as Mido. The characters are given emotional depth that one could sympathize for. They were not simply categorized as either good or evil but they were allowed to feel raw emotion. The direction was also spectacular from Park Chan-wook. And the soundtrack was mesmerizing.

This is definitely a must-see especially for people who love another kind of entertainment. I could have given this a 11 out of 10 rating if only I am allowed to.
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One of most well-made films I've ever seen
max879121 April 2007
I decided to check this movie out after Ebert's 4 star rave review, and the cult status this movie has received (and was also intrigued by the sexy-looking Ultimate Edition), so I decided to rent it. I was VERY surprised at how different it was than I expected it to be - I expected a ton of violence and not much in the way of writing or acting. The first time I saw it, I wasn't blown away, just kind of like whatever.

When I watched it for the second time, however, I really started to notice how well it's made, in addition to liking it more. Every shot is bursting with background detail, a great amount of attention on the production design (the theme of a certain color in a scene was restrained, yet perfectly balanced). The actors really gave it all, especially the 2 male leads who really blew me away. The music is a varied mix of beautiful classical music and some pretty cool techno. The screenplay is brilliant; the characters are developed very well, extremely complex, and the plot is not only ingenious, but the payoff and twists are 1000x better than any Shamaylan movie.

Simply put, from a technical point of view, it's one of the best movies ever. From a critic's point of view, it is a very well-done movie that goes a little overboard in sex and violence, and is just a little strange.
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Pass by the "Boo" comments.
tetsuoisleet6 September 2007
After going through the comments, i must say i'm impressed how many people out there don't have a slightest clue of beauty or intelligent screenplays. there are so many comments from people that totally disliked the movie. which is plain and simple not possible, if you got an open mind and a open heart (and are not drunk). I would compare it to chocolate. You may find it too sweet and prefer bitter chocolate. or you like white chocolate more. Or you got diabetes and can only sometimes eat one. But people that totally dislike chocolate scare me to death. Same goes for Oldboy, you gotta admit some of the genius art-form it contains. Its everything in there. Its heartwarming , disgusting, intelligent, beautiful and lead with outstanding performance of any actor . You HAVE to like something, cause it wont get much better. Its chocolate. If you disliked the movie so much and on a constant basis, why even bother to write a comment? My guess is you just could not follow the movie at all. which is my only guess actually. well enough rambling.

:::::::::: Bottom Line :::::::::

If you call common sense, and a human heart your own and like "challenging" movies, go and see it NOW.(i recommend the original korean version with subs)I also recommend the pre- and sequel to this movie. (just browse Chan Wook Park) If you think "The Fast and the Furious" is the best movie ever made, please do not even bother to watch Oldboy, and spare others your "brilliant" reviews.
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Great film!
lucas73917 March 2007
I feel compelled to defend this film from some quite frankly unwarranted criticism. Although it isn't without its flaws, and all films have a few,it certainly isn't a one star film.What this film has is the ability to be sublime, shocking, ridiculous, mildly amusing and visually stunning which is some feat for any film.The sheer scale of the comments here suggests that here is a film that gets to you in one way or another. This film is as far away from Maborosi as you can get yet both films are up there as great pieces of cinema. I wont divulge the plot or end this comment with a Latin quote to reinforce my self importance i'll just say go and watch it, preferably if you're not too squeamish and don't mind subtitles.This film left me thinking about it the following day which is normally a good thing (atleast it shows my memory is working!)
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Amazing Movie
gdmvy29 August 2007
Yes this is a twisted movie with plots that unravel slowly and sometimes there are scenes that are slow. But over all it's incredible. Some of the symbolism behind the scenes are stunning. You have to go deep to appreciate it. There is a lot of gore and violence that can turn you off, but I was simply amazed by the depth and width of some of the scenes.

Without giving anything away, once the main character is released he meets a man with a dog. It's seems to be an irrelevant scene, but put yourself in a cage for 15 years and think about how you would act? What happens to that man? Isn't he also in a cage? Aren't we all? What is the symbolism of that man? How about the dog? Revenge to the main character in this movie is his life. Why? And you don't question it because you know what happened to him. He doesn't question it either.

To me this was one of the greatest depictions of Oedipus or other Greek characters I've seen this decade in a movie. Nothing is new. If you liked "Requiem for a Dream" or "Blue Velvet." Consider this one.
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One step ahead of America
ryuakamrvengeance7 March 2007
Oldboy takes a hammer and "batters" its American equivalents, leaving them as pulped as a chewed up squid. Park Chan Wook displays what America misses with his ultra-stylish, ultra-violent thriller. Why watch Ben Affleck fail spectacularly to summon any displayable talent, when Min sik Choi serves up a memorable role as the disturbed, vengeful Dae Su Oh, in the second of the Vengeance trilogy. Park skillfully creates a compelling plot that will have you guessing through the entire film, up until the final shocking revelation. The Cinematography expertly done by Jeong-hun Jeong, who also worked on the follow up to this film, Chinjeolhan geumjassi. Everything about this film is done in style and panache and creates a memorable experience, and has many memorable scenes.

Many people accuse this film of being "unrealistic". These people forget that this a film, not a documentary. No one complains About Star Wars being unrealistic, and rightly so. Films have a right to stretch out reality, don't forget the reason it does this is to be entertaining.

Although the film has strong violence of a graphic nature, I advise you to watch it, if only to broaden your perspectives of world and Asian cinema.
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Didn't like it much at all
dj_bassett24 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Armond White of the NY Press has called it a "virtuosic stupid movie". I think that's exactly right.

Certainly the movie looks fantastic. I liked the surrealistic touches. I think the director has a real imaginative way of capturing the process of memory -- there's an extended flashback about 3/4 way through which I think is as well conceived and shot as anything I've seen. The acting is standout. Hell, I even liked the score.

But the movie almost aggressively makes no sense.

SPOILERS Leave aside for a moment the obvious plot holes, large and small -- although it's worth noting that there's a whole lot of them. Leave aside the contrivances, too: the endless special gadgets the bad guy comes up with just when he needs them, the rather magical view of hypnosis, Dae-Su's magical new abilities, the seeming omnipotence of the badguy. Let's assume all this is beside the point, and that we're supposed to take the movie more or less symbolically ala FIGHT CLUB (probably the closest reference).

The movie doesn't make any sense thematically, either. What's it really about? The virtue of keeping your mouth shut? The movie seems to suggest that the bad guy's sexual relationship with his sister is just fine, the problem seems to be Dae-Su's big mouth. The movie rather laboriously teaches this: the sister kills herself because of the rumors which somehow the sister believes to be true (?); Dae-Su becomes convinced that he was, in fact, at fault; Dae-Su cuts his own tongue out; Dae-Su pleads that Mi-do never learn the truth; Dae-Su even ends up brainwashing himself via hypnosis to forget the truth -- or "keep his mind shut", in a sense. I mean, huh? This is a pretty juvenile kind of ethics, to be blunt about it. Although Dae-Su is the protagonist the movie really doesn't seem to be on his side. It also hints at a weird kind of passivity: for all of the hammer swinging and octopus eating, Dae-Su doesn't really do all that much: things are done to him, and eventually he begins to internalize the abuse given to him.

Is it about the futility of revenge? One would think, particularly with the references to COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. But leaving aside the notion that Dae-Su's tormentor's omnipresence seems to weigh against the notion of him and Mi-do doing anything, really, but take their lumps or try to fight back, the fact that Dae-Su is considered by the movie to have really "done" something makes any critique pretty complicated. Remember, in COUNT Dantes is a true innocent. His motives are as pure as revenge ever gets -- that's why Dumas's ultimate critique, his ultimate notion that revenge even for the Count is wrong works so well. The force is seen in isolation. Here, though, it seems more a case of Dae-Su learning how "bad" he really is. He shouldn't take revenge because he really IS at fault.

I guess you could argue that the movie shows revenge is futile from the bad guy's point of view. Then why are we watching Dae-Su at all? Maybe the point is that everyone feels themselves righteous until they realize the true dimensions of their "sin". But I don't see a lot of people facing up to facts in the movie: I see a lot of denial, in fact. Dae-Su admits to his relatively "minor" sin but can't face up to his "major" one.

After I saw this I read some interviews with the cast and crew, and apparently some of this vagueness is intentional -- we're supposed to be left unsure. Well, the movie is successful in that, but I think it's an unworthy goal, an abdication of the artist's responsibility. People have bristled at the charge that this movie is nihilistic, but if that really is the point, that the movie's supposed to throw up it's hands and say, "hey, I dunno, you figure it out", then that truly is nihilism.

Ah well, I could go on, but I won't bore you. A virtuosic stupid movie indeed, I think: often amazing to watch but underneath the surface just a whole bunch of muddleheadedness.
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A masterpiece for the cinema fanatics.
maciusp19 February 2008
The first time I watched "Old-boy", I was half-amazed, half-disgusted. I wasn't quite sure how to rate the movie in general. I knew 2 things: 1. From a visual point of view, it's one of the best movies I have ever seen. Cinematography & scenography are nothing short of perfection. 2. I had problems with the plot, some holes in it, and a general feeling of injustice, as crime seemed to be pretty lightweight compared with the punishment.

2nd time was a weird situation. A girl I knew tried to get into the film school, and the day before her exam she asked me to supply her with some movies that were interesting visually. 2 films we watched were "Natural Born Killers" and "Old-boy", and, especially the 2nd 1 was a revelation.

Knowing the plot, it was easy for me to concentrate on the visual side, and my friend always consumes the movies this way. Results of paying attention to the tiniest of details were stunning. I don't think there's 1 scene in there shot without an idea, without something happening in the background, or without an image responding to the theme of the scene.

Don't be a baby crying about violence - camera turns away in key moments. Don't be a smartarse, picking on the shortcomings of the plot - think about Hitchcock or Chaplin and how they gave a flying f... about plot. Appreciate the work of the whole crew, and for best effects watch it a couple of times. It's worth it.
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More people need to see this film!
JagsFanJay15 August 2007
In an age of American cinema where our biggest blockbusters are based on films already successful overseas, this is one movie that needs to be seen by more American movie goers. This is the movie that got me hooked on Asian revenge films. Oldboy is an original movie that shows what happens when a man's freedom is taken away and he doesn't know why, or by whom. He is sudden thrust back into society where he must track down the person that took away his freedom. Along the way come multiple plot twist and surprises that you just don't see coming.

It's a shame so many American film goers refuse to see foreign films, because this movie is genius. Who knows, maybe someday the movie will get remade for audiences here in the U.S. and the main character will be played by Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis. If you want to stay true to the Asian vision, I even think Jackie Chan could be a candidate.
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Complex, challenging masterpiece that puts Hollywood to shame.
MrVibrating20 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
While Hollywood is slowly choking to death on clichés and unrealistic budgets, the movie lovers turn their attention to Asia. Especially interesting is Korea's emerging movie industry. Japan has a long tradition of quality horror and anime and China dominates the epics with state-sponsored spectacles. Which place Korea will take we don't know but if Oldboy is any inclination it would be intelligent, disturbing drama-action movies.

Oldboy has an extremely intelligent and edgy script, which will make you think and question your morals. It would NEVER be picked up in Hollywood. Even the initial concept of being locked up for 15 years without apparent reason would be deemed to strange for the audience. Thankfully, the Korean producers could see the brilliance of the script and give it a shot. It's budget is some $4 million, which is amazingly well used.

Oldboy is very much the child of it's director, Chan-Wook Park, who's name should warrant a lot more fame than it does. The camera-work and pacing is amazing. There are virtually no dull moments. The fighting scenes are used to compliment to movie, not to give a reward after half an hour's boredom.

The lead actors are no less amazing. Min-Sik Choi is a perfect anti-hero. Unlike the Western antiheroes, he even has the looks of an everyman, which makes his transformation so much more spectacular. The lead actress is a bit understates in my opinion, but memorable never the less. The best one is by far Ji-Tae Ju, the charismatic villain. He dominates every scene he's in, a sort of Korean Christian Bale American Psycho.

Music and choreography is great as well. All the details and the grit makes the movie really come alive. At the end, you are in awe, a rare feeling for a movie. The feeling stays with you for days. Occasionally you will think of the movie and shake your head, unbelieving someone could actually pull it off.

So do yourself a favor, watch Oldboy. You will not be disappointed.
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A rather disappointing effort
schnofel29 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Old Boy sucks! No, wait, let me rephrase that: Old Boy is a stylistically challenging, highly innovative, but ultimately hollow and repugnant exercise in genre film-making.

And just to let you know where I'm coming from – 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance' was brilliant; an unforgiving and touching descent into doom. In that movie everything that happened somehow had to. One action triggered the next one and we experienced a vicious circle of violence and revenge. The characters seemed trapped in their situation.

In Old Boy our protagonist is also trapped, but you know the story, so I won't tell you again. So he's in this room and there is great sound design and camera work. But once he frees himself, the complications and problems multiply. The plot is at first close to incomprehensible as he stumbles from one situation to another. When the villain explains his schemes at the end and brings enlightenment, I just couldn't care anymore. The intriguing premise is destroyed by the revelation that it's all a contrived revenge plot by the bad guy.

And contrived it is. The story only works by inserting endless flashbacks (full of bad pathos) and explanations. To keep the audience interested, we get gruesome scenes of murder, self-mutilation and general mayhem. As others have remarked, these scenes are well done, but serve no greater purpose. It's all a so-what comic extravaganza.

Out of 'Old Boy' I got small pleasures and a lot of disappointment, courtesy of one of the most interesting directors working today. I liked (among other things) the infamous hallway scene, the actors, the fight with the bodyguard, the revelation of the Secret and the sequence of Oh Dae-su leaving his bad self behind at the end. Small pleasures, indeed.
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Probably the best Korean movie ever made
jacktalking27 August 2009
From the "Vengeance" trilogy by Pak Chan-wook, Oldboy is probably the best, followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Simple story, "low budget" and actors you already know from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Although I am a fan of Korean movies, when I've heard about this movie and it's plot for the first time, I thought "oh my god, another sponsored-by-tomato-factory movie". I watched it for the first time two years after it was released. And to be honest, I was surprised. Since then, I watched this movie more than ten times and I still find it interesting. To me, Oldboy the best Korean movie ever made. Maybe best Asian movie in the last 20 years.

I recommend you to watch this, along with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. You'll be also surprised to find the same actors.

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What am I missing?
susanandsophie25 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was awful, plain and simple. It will probably be revered by those who only see "films" and not "movies" and will therefore feel sorry for me for having such a limited understanding of the theatrical brilliance of this film, but I am secure enough in my intellect to say that this boring, self-aggrandizing and painfully drawn-out movie was a waste of two hours and nine dollars.

I was suckered into seeing this by the inexplicable good reviews it had been receiving and came out of the theater thinking that those reviews had to have been written by over-excited film students and the aforementioned group of individuals who shun regular movies, perhaps for fear that they may actually enjoy one someday.

The storyline is quite a promising one - a man is imprisoned for 15 years, never knowing his captor nor his crime. He is then abruptly released and given just five days to discover the identity and reason of the man who imprisoned him. However, the great concept soon disintegrates into a pathetic joke as Oh Dae-Su runs around beating people up, trying to have sex with a young girl who is attempting to use the toilet and eating a live, writhing squid (presumably for dramatic effect, as there is absolutely no other reason for it). All the while he is trying to figure out this horrible thing he did to earn himself fifteen years in jail, and when he finally finds out it is both ridiculous and a major letdown. His nemesis, a man who supposedly went to school with him when he was a young man, looks like a Banana Republic model twenty years younger than him. Hey, I know prison has been hard on Oh Dae-Su, but is it too much to ask to find an actor that looks a bit closer to his age? Of all the things wrong with this movie, this one seems like the easiest one to fix.

And the big secret - the one that kept me in my seat for 90 minutes when I could have been out doing something productive - is some joke of a plot line involving incest and a rumor started in high school. Come on! Throw us a bone here - was that really the best they could do? I sat through stupid dialogue, over-acting, gloomy sets and gratuitous violence for this? (By the way - I'm not at all against violence in a film if it seems to fit the story, but in this case it seems I was forced to watch our hero knock out someone's front teeth and cut off his own tongue with a pair of scissors in order to distract me from figuring out I was wasting my afternoon watching a pretentious piece of garbage).

Take my advice - do something else with your time and money. Or take your nine dollars and go see a lowly "movie" - one that you might actually enjoy.
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One of the most gripping movies I have ever seen
LoneWolfAndCub4 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Oldboy is one of the most intense movies you will ever see. Breathtaking, brutal and easily one of the best revenge movies ever made. The acting is amazing, especially Choi as the main protagonist Dae-su Oh. All the actors did great but his performance was powerful and emotional (all you need to do is see the infamous squid scene). Chan-wook Park gives this movie a very unique style with his direction. The plot starts off like a fairly standard revenge drama but he slowly makes the movie darker through a series of beautifully shot flashbacks and a huge scene involving nothing but a family photo album.

If you can't handle extremely strong violence, torture, sex and language and can't stand subtitles it's best you stay far away from Oldboy....if you can, though, then watch it! It's an incredible movie with some of the best performances, a moving score and a disturbing but unique plot with twist after twist.

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Emotional, evocative and excellent.
grdontom27 July 2009
Old Boy is my favourite film. As far as I can see, no amount of superlatives could explain quite how much I love it. After my first viewing, (all on my lonesome) I realised I probably hadn't blinked during its entirety and I could quite possibly have been burgled during its course and been none the wiser, such was the extent to which I found it totally and utterly engrossing. Obviously a review consisting of very little other than me spewing praise would be a fairly dull read which was why I never bothered to review Old Boy until after my second viewing, with my Po'. My father being the eternal sceptic that he is turned out to be an extremely worthy person to watch the film with, and his response to it opened my eyes a little as to why I love it that much.

The plot itself is as follows. The protagonist Oh Dae-Su is one day captured and finds himself locked up in a makeshift prison. After a brief spell of anger and spewing hatred for his captors, he resigns himself to his fate, and after 15 years of shadow boxing and suicide attempts he wakes up from a gas induced coma on top of a tower block where he was initially seized. He then proceeds to try and find out who did this and why, and the film basically charts this quest.

The first word that springs to mind when thinking about this film has to be graphic. There are certain scenes which will make those of nervous disposition recoil until they are firmly wedged between the back and seat of their sofa, and they are likely to spend much of the film there as violence is frequent. In most of the extreme cases it is simply the implication of violence and the viewer's imagination when left to its own devices like this will cause its own disgust. This hurdle was a huge thing problem for my dad, who considered some of the violence to be gratuitous, which I can somewhat agree with, although certain scenes are completely integral to the plot. The best way I can justify these scenes is simple. It is all about sending a message, and these do just that. If you can cope with this then you will break down the initial barrier the film leaves lying in the way of your enjoyment.

Another barrier will be the massive culture shock experienced when viewing the film. This is a Korean language film adapted from a Japanese animé series, so there are obviously large cultural differences to the western world. Some of the images used will require quite some thought to fully understand, and the script on translation does lose some of its flow, as any animé or graphic novel fans will associate with. For my father, this made it hard for him to settle into the flow of the film, and I can identify with this slightly from my early days of watching animé.

Many of the themes you will pick up on and the method of direction is very synonymous with Quentin Tarantino. There are devices used in this film which have obviously taken inspiration from Tarantino's works, in particular the Pulp Fiction- esquire use of camera angles, and the famous dotted line sequence. However, Tarantino is himself a huge fan of Old Boy, being its main advocate to win the 2003 Palme d'Or (where it eventually lost out to Fahrenheit 9/11) and has stated Park Chan-Wook as an influence for his directing style on the Kill Bill series, as well as on his later grindhouse works Death Proof and Planet Terror. Chan-Wook takes on a policy of "trust the director", and leaves many questions throughout the film which gives it a somewhat disorientating feel at times. This method of directing can seem quite inaccessible, however all loose ends are tied up very satisfactorily in the enthralling and shocking climax. This is an ending to rival the classic Kaiser Sozé twist in the tail of The Usual Suspects.

What really separated and elevates Chan-Wook's work above and beyond Tarantino's however is very simple. Much of Tarantino's work is undertaken as an exercise in direction and film making, and therefore his work can therefore feel shallow. Old Boy however is a film which assesses the deepest corners of the human heart. The middle of three films which make up Chan-Wook's Vengeance Trilogy it is undoubtedly the masterpiece, with a more powerful message than Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This film has power because of the depths to which it explores the flaws and forces the human heart possesses, stronger and more destructive than any wisdom can overcome. The performances of the main cast and most importantly the director to send this message to the viewer leave this film as about as close to perfection as I can see any film getting.
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A wannabe "tragedy a la Grecque" with lots of gore and no sublime
Samsclub14 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Unbelievable. "Philosophy". "Depth". "Genius". "Masterpiece". People must have seen another "Oldboy" because the one I've seen was a badly written, poorly conceived, over-the-top-acted, sordid piece of "Kraapola" which, even ignoring for a moment the ludicrously violent scenes which makes it unsuitable for the eyes of a child, could barely satisfy the imagination and the thirst for plot consistency of a seven years old.

The "depth" of this sorry concoction was exhausted in one little piece of wisdom, "Laugh and the whole world will laugh with you, weep and you'll find yourself alone", the type of boring fortune cookie saying which a great author, be him Shakespeare or, more to the point of IMDb, Kurosawa, would have thrown in the garbage can with no second thoughts. Where this movie should have landed too, if we wouldn't live in an era in which the cheaply shocking and the perversely disgusting are confused with what used to be named once "great art". In short, yuck.

2 out of 100. It's not 1 out of 1000 only because of some occasionally expert camera-work. In no way enough to save this infantile failure from worthlessness, though.
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Violence without sense
hakapes16 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Fortunately, I haven't seen this film in a movie, big screen, just on a small screen on video. I doubt that I would have been able to sit through the film in a cinema and watch all the violence present in the film. After watching the first 30 minutes, I became both disappointed and curious.

Disappointed because of the hard to follow story line, the hardly understandable screens, the huge amount of aggression - I still don't know why I had been shown the Daesu (main character) pulling out raw the teeth of another person, his beastliness on women, him cutting out his tongue. And also curious, to see what will the film say as a conclusion, what is the ending summary of all this brutality.

Unfortunately, though the movie was not boring, I didn't get any answer to all these cruelty that I had to watch from the beginning to the end. To my opinion, if you want blood and want to laugh, there is Kill Bill 1-2, if you want blood with more meaning, you can take any recent war movie, and if you want an Eastern movie, there are much better titles out there. Afterwards I will take the ratings from the Cannes film festival with more precaution, as while Oldboy got a lot of praise from the jury, it had not much to say to me and had only 4/10 on my scale.

I am hungry to see something beautiful, harmonious, with true feelings and a clear message.
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How many tomatoes had to "die" for this dud to be produced ?
MikeH11113 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I am sorry to rain on everybody's parade. Just a little background about me: I like and know a lot about Asian cinema, especially Japanese, Chinese and Indian. Admittedly I am a novice when it comes to South-Korean cinema but, if this is the best of the best, sorry. I just want you to know that I am not at all narrow-minded when it comes to appreciating foreign movies and I do not fit the stereotype of the "dumb American" . . . well, not perfectly.

I cannot believe the high praise this piece of nothing is bestowed upon. This is a disgusting *and* ludicrous movie. Hammy acting - everything is badly done and overdone, like begging for the uneducated viewer's attention. Horrible camera-work, with an insistence on meaningless close-ups derived from the MTV aesthetics.

The plot is more full of holes than a gigantic piece of Swiss cheese. Nobody expects a thriller to be 100% realistic, and for the sake of entertainment I'd be happy to close my eyes to small unfitting details. But, excuse me, what's happening here that *can* stand even summary scrutiny? This story of an unbelievably intricate and contrite act of revenge is worse than the worst tabloid story one can read in a line at the supermarket. (Don't want to spoil your "enjoyment", if that's the word, so won't go into details of the plot.) The fighting scenes are violent, unbelievable, downright stupid (the main "hero" taking on dozens and dozens of opponents in the same time, after he ONLY trained while imprisoned, punching a wall ! ) The truly "outstanding" features of this movie are two: the lurid and incestuous sex (brother on sister and father on daughter, well, we've evolved since Oedipus, didn't we?) and the graphic violence. The cut off body parts - hands, teeth, tongues - together with industrial quantities of spilled blood (how many tens of thousands of tomatoes had to die for this movie to be made?) have no esthetical function/motivation whatsoever.

A feast for the S & M inclined, admittedly, but, even for those, a feast of no merit nor subtlety. Heavens, even Mel Gibson's recent and much-discussed work on an almost similar theme wasn't THAT bad.

The invariably good press this pretentious, overblown, overlong piece of gratuitous gore coming from Korean shores obtains makes me wonder what's happening. I don't think of myself as being the ultimate paragon of taste and often I am ready to accept that a movie I didn't enjoy may be better than I was able to perceive. However, I have no scruples whatsoever in calling this one as I see it: bad, bad, bad. No redeeming qualities. My 2c? Find something better to do with your time.
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Totally forgettable flick ranging from ridiculous to disgusting
grzegorz-jan-dabkowski23 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This comment is meant mainly as a warning to the people who might be attracted to the title by its (temporarily)high user rating which I find frankly puzzling. The reasons why I didn't like this title are following:

1. The directer must have had some doubts whether to make a Jackie-Chan-type of a flick or a dark Oedipian tragedy. As a result, in terms of genre, the film falls between two stools, as the tragic and comic elements clash and cancel out each other rather than make a harmonious whole.

2. The characters' motives and behaviors are incoherent and unconvincing. Psychological truth and logic are sadly missing.

3. Absurd casting. I don't blame the actors, for it is a hard thing to create a convincing character by acting alone, if there is scarce logic in the script. However, why is there an apparent age difference of about 15 years between the leading two actors, whose ages in the film can't differ by more than 3-4?

4. To me the film was poor entertainment primarily because of point 2. If you can't find a character you could sympathize with it is hard to follow the story with interest. When you finally learn the reason of what happened to the main protagonist, it turns out to make no sense.

5. Some films apart from being entertaining are also thought-provoking. Having seen this film, I began to wonder whether the thought the director tried to provoke was not that incestuous relationships could be perfectly wholesome and delightful. I cannot put any other construction on the ending.

6. The film is rife with totally unnecessary violence. Violence in a film (and elsewhere) is a good thing, if it serves an important and worthy purpose. Purposes can be different and I don't want to enter into this broad subject. Let me just say I don't object to violence in such films as "Saving Private Ryan", "The Passion of the Christ" or "The Pulp Fiction". In "Oldboy" the scenes of torture and suffering are prolonged and graphic (or aural). What for? I do not know. Personally, I don't derive any satisfaction from watching teeth being extracted with a hammer or hear a man cut off his tongue with scissors and then see him choking on his own blood etc. etc.

In short, I do not recommend this film either as entertainment or "food for thought". Where it isn't silly, it is disgusting. Don't waste your time.
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At best an average soap-opera
mikeyhobson5 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It seems that some viewers assume that the only thing which can make the viewer dislike this movie is the graphic violence. In fact violence, both disturbing and cartoonish, is the last of "Oldboy"'s deep flaws. The characters are unidimensional, underdeveloped, primitive. The "intensity", an obsession and a goal in itself with this director, is served up with the cheapest of means. Let's not confuse a mindless shot of adrenaline with artistic worth. By the end of the movie, it seems that all the cards were exhausted so the script becomes almost inadvertently funny in its efforts to find new levels of "horror", to continue to "shock" an audience which is already numbed by the plethora of dumb soap-opera "revelations" already served up in big bunches. It would be hard to imagine anybody even vaguely familiar with the masterpieces of the last fifty years of Asian cinema being enthralled by this pompous piece of trash. Imagine Homer Simpson hesitating in front of the cinema theater: "should I go in or should I buy five cones of ice-cream for the same money?" Be smart, Homer, go for the ice-cream.
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