Oldboy (Director: Chan-wook Park)
The Korean Park is slowly making a splash in the States. This film was what Quentin Tarantino wanted to win the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival (Fahrenheit 9/11 won). Park's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance recently played at the Nashville Film Festival and might soon get a limited release in the U.S. Both films are part of a "revenge trilogy" he has planned. Oldboy got a limited March release and has just now hit Nashville.
Asian cinema continues to tweak genres in an interesting way. It's the reason why America (and Hollywood) has gotten on an Asian remake or polished-for-U.S. release kick lately. Horror is the main attraction, followed by martial arts films. After this, it might not be so hard to imagine puzzle-box thrillers like this making the next wave.
Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi, in a great performance) is a man who is kidnapped and sent to a "prison" that is in actuality an apartment with a TV, but he is not allowed to go out and doesn't see anyone during his stay. Gas gets pumped into his room to make him sleep. He is imprisoned for 15 years. During his stay he sees news reports that his wife has been killed and he, who mysteriously vanished, is the suspect. Finally, after 15 years, he is out into the world, and he begins a search for the man who has done this to him. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with a beautiful chef, Mido (Hye-jeong Kang), and meets the man who imprisoned him, Woo-jin Lee (Ji-tae Yu). Lee begins to play a game--Dae su must figure out the reason why he has been imprisoned before July 5 or else Lee kills the new love of Dae-su's life.
Oldboy is awfully funny for a movie like this. Min-sik Choi garners most of the attention with some off-the-wall facial expressions and line-readings. Don't let it fool you, but don't be afraid to laugh either. It is filmed and edited beautifully, complete with great visuals and an unbroken-shot fight that is a lot like the old 2-D side-scrolling fighting games. I can honestly say this is one of the best films I've seen this year, one that at this point rivals my favorite, Crash. I might have to see both again at some point to see which one holds up better.
I'm going to end the review right here. You must see this film now or rent it when it comes out.