Oldboy (2003) (R)













"Oldboy" is a very stylistically attractive film, which is annoying because I hated the ending. Yes, the shots are mind numbing and the special effects are all perfection, yet the story that "Oldboy" is telling is one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen. And it's not the ending that disturbed me, though it should have. What freaked me out about this movie was the total lack of control and the need for such extravagance. Yes, the over-indulgence in things that were totally unnecessary was what really got to me.
One other movie, just one prior to this one got to me so much that it made me cover my eyes with my hands—"Inglourious Basterds". The scene in question in the Tarantino film involved a baseball bat and Brad Pitt. Since then, I have seen the film again and consider it to be one of Tarantino's best. "Oldboy" has a very similar Tarantino style, in which the emotion of the film dangles between comic-book, drama, and action. Random sequences emulate the director's quirkiness, like a visual dotted line that connects a hammer with a man's forehead...guess what's going to happen next.
The movie, which I refuse to spoil, mainly because I don't wish to rehash the film inside my head starts with a drunk man being kidnapped. He is held for fifteen years, so he tells us in a voiced-over narration that comes and goes for the whole movie.
"Oldboy" is curiously poetic, with repeated phrases popping back up again and again, most notably were the repetition of the conjunction "But..." and the phrase "laugh and the world laughs with you...weep and you weep alone".
"Oldboy" balances the message that it's trying to convey—if it's trying to say anything—between revenge and knowledge. Revenge is evil, but then again, this movie seems to portray knowledge as evil too.
This is possibly the movie that depends on its score more than any other. The music that is always strumming in the background contrasts what is happening on the screen to very effective results. Take a scene which resembles "Marathon Man"—the music is a happy, classic song zipping along.
The visual imagery of "Oldboy" is another thing that makes the film so appealing, if it were based on looks and execution alone, it would be a knockout movie. Regrettably, the story itself is what weighs the film down.
The movie demands a great third act reveal (I believe I made this complaint about "The Game") and it doesn't deliver. Reveals should be crisp and clean and send shivers up your back, not be drawn out for too long and convey haziness.
I have the utmost respect for Min-sik Choi who played the main character because the things he must have had to endure as an actor are somewhat excruciating to watch.
I mentioned before how I watched "Inglourious Basterds" behind my hands, this film was three times what that film was in the 'cringe-producing-factory'. I'm not made of steel, but this movie was ridiculous in its desire for those moments.
If this had been a version of "Saw", then this movie might have fit right in; but it's not. It's a drama and a mystery and should have a steady plot line and not dissolve into thrasher moments.
What I really hated about this movie was how much I wanted to love it. It's my kind of movie. Take a movie and add mystery, suspense,  drama...ruin it all with a horrible twist and moments of disgust, and *poof*—you've got "Oldboy"



Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

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