Hey folks, Harry here... Nothing anyone can say will really prepare you for the work of Chan Wook Park. He's the greatest unknown international filmmaker working today. He is a genius and the films coming from Korea are exceptional, with his being as great as Friedkin or Scorsese or Polanski at their very best. I say that without flinching in the least. Light years better than any contemporary set film in the United States this year or... for many years. If you love GREAT CINEMA, find this movie and put in the teeth guard, cuz it'll knock your teeth out!
It’s difficult to explain BNAT. Believe me, I’ve had people try for the last 4 years, and the words barely do it justice. It’s a geek cuisinart, obsessively programmed with moments to make you laugh, moments to make you cheer, and most importantly providing films that challenge the audience.
And while there were some amazing films (Passion of Christ, Return of the King, The General), there was one movie that stood out from the pack. An engaging, flawless film that successfully pushes all the right buttons.
I had heard many things about Chan-wook Park. Mostly from Aint it Cool regulars. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance was widely discussed last year, but I never got around to seeing it. I’m now kicking myself for not seeking it out earlier. OldBoy is the kind of film that makes you want to seek out other work by the filmmaker, like the first time I saw North by Northwest when I was 12, and have never heard of Alfred Hitchcock. You feel an urge to find more works by the filmmaker and watch them as soon as you can.
OldBoy is that kind of movie. A surprise in every way.
The opening is so simple. A man is kidnapped and held against his will for 15 years, the solitude slowly driving him mad. There is little exposition or backstory. Park instead hits the ground running and lets the story unfold to the audience as it unfolds to the lead character, Oh Dae-Su (played brilliantly by Min-sik Choi). And what a story it is.
Oh, don’t think I’m delving too deep into the plot. This is a movie to be discovered, enjoyed, and digested. To give away too much of the story would be a disservice to anyone who seeks this film out, and for the record, that should be every self respecting fan of film.
At the core, OldBoy is a revenge flick. A violent, sprwaling epic that delves into the mind of a man who has been wronged, and his painstaking tribulations to see the game come to an end. Park puts his protagonist through a series of grueling tasks, a chess game orchestrated by a man he doesn’t know, Lee Woo Jin (chillingly played by Ji-tae Yu). This isn’t one of those movies with the villain revealed in the last 5 minutes, with a nice and tidy summation of the reasons for his actions. Park reveals his antagonist early on and lets Oh Dae Su struggle the entire movie with who he is, and why he has spent 15 years torturing him.
Park is a deft director, able to convey scenes of raw emotion, raw fury, and pure pain. The characters of OldBoy are tragic and flawed, and it is what makes this film so damn compelling. Park is unflinching, showing the moments where most filmmakers would look the other way. When Oh Dae Sue tortures an employee by pulling his teeth with a claw hammer, Park shows it (And holy shit was it painful to watch). When Oh Dae-Su is attacked soon after by a dozen thugs, with only the same claw hammer to fend them off, he shows it all. But not in a chopsocky traditional fight sequence, rather in a nice medium one shot. There’s something satisfying about a movie that takes so many chances and pulls most of them off. There were so many places where this film could have gone wrong. So many times where the controversial material could have overplayed. The kind of twists and plot turns that could derail a filmmaker of lesser ability. Park came out swinging, like Oh Dae-su with a claw hammer.
But truly, this is a film where all the cylinders were firing. An amazing cast, a deft director, engaging cinematography, and an amazing script.
This movie deserves an audience.