Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Brilliance, 5 April 2005
This review is from: Oldboy [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
In terms of celluloid quality, Asia is most definitely where it's at these days, and there is no better indicator of this than Oldboy. Warnings abouts its violent content prompted me to eschew it at the cinema, but excellent word of mouth prompted me to check it out on DVD, and I'm infinitely glad I did. True, there are two or three pretty nasty moments, but it is not the violence but the themes that prove shocking. I won't go into these at all, because this film MUST be watched with as little prior knowledge of the story as possible; suffice to say, the plot undergoes a complete reversal at the end, meaning that EVERYTHING that has gone before is turned so utterly on its head that you will never be able to watch it in quite the same way again. Quite literally, the film grabs your wrist and pulls you, whether you want to go or not, into some very dark places indeed; and though it may not be a film you will watch that often, it is an absolute must for any respectable film-fan's DVD collection.
Why? Perhaps the finest thing in Oldboy - aside from the unflinching depiction of vengeance and what it can do to a man - is the performance of the lead actor. Min-Sik Choi is magnificent as Dae-su, by degrees fearless, funny and wholly heartbreaking, he completely nails every emotion of his character, from harmless drunkenness a despair so pure that it leads him to ultimate actions that we can't understand, and yet somehow can. If Hollywood had any guts, he would have dominated the awards season. The direction is equally brilliant, particularly the lengthy corridor fight-scene in which the protagonists tire themselves to point of keeling over - and all in one shot. The neon colours mixed with shadows gives the film an original, nightmarish look that finds perfect symmetry with Min-sik Choi's hollow black eyes; stylish in a way that so many other Hollywood movies wish they were. Speaking of Hollywood, the inevitable remake is already on the way, although it is hard to see how America, being so politically conservative at the moment, would ever have the stomach to go for it in the way that Chan-wook Park has. Still, kudos to the latter for not selling out to the Hollywood machine and accepting an invitation to remake the Evil Dead in America, but to stay in Korea and work on the next in his 'Vengeance' cycle. Very little good has come from brilliant Asian directors 'doing a Woo'!
I'm not going to say that Oldboy the best film ever made, although I think history will see it featuring on many 'greatest ever' lists, but I can say with full confidence that it is easily the finest film I have seen in at least five years. Any film that makes me physically jump out of my seat and invoke the name of the good Lord is worth watching in my book. Buy, watch, and don't let the remake ruin it for you.
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