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Theatrical poster
Hangul 올드보이
RR Oldeuboi
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Produced by Lim Seung-yong
Written by Hwang Jo-yun
Park Chan-wook
Lim Chun-hyeong
Lim Joon-hyung
Garon Tsuchiya
Starring Choi Min-sik
Yu Ji-tae
Kang Hye-jeong
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Jeong Jeong-hoon
Distributed by Show East
Release date(s) South Korea:
November 21, 2003
United Kingdom:
October 15, 2004
United States:
March 25, 2005
Running time 120 min.
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Admissions South Korea:
Preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Oldboy (Hangul: 올드보이, the phonetic transliteration of "old boy") is a 2003 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook. It is based on a Japanese manga of the same name written by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. Oldboy is the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

The movie follows the story of one Oh Dae-Su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor's motives. When he is finally released, Dae Su finds himself still trapped in a web of conspiracy and strangeness. His own quest for vengeance becomes tied in with romance when he falls for an attractive sushi chef.

The film won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and high praise from the President of the Jury, director Quentin Tarantino, who could not persuade the members of the jury to give it the Palme d'Or over Fahrenheit 9/11.[citation needed] Critically, the movie has been well received in the United States, with an 82% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rottentomatoes.com.[2] Film critic Roger Ebert has claimed Oldboy to be a "...powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare".[3]

In 2008, CNN named it one of the ten best Asian films ever made[4].


[edit] Plot

The film opens with a man holding another man over a building ledge by his tie. The man holding the other man is asked his name after he says that he wants to tell a story. The man is Oh Dae-su - a Korean businessman, husband and father. The scene flashes back to an overweight Dae-su as he sits drunkenly in a local police station while his friend, Joo-Hwan, bails him out. After Dae-su calls and talks to his daughter Yeun-Hee from a public phone, Joo-Hwan takes the phone to reassure Dae-su's wife of his imminent return. After hanging up, Joo-Hwan turns around and discovers Dae-su is now missing. Days later, Dae-su awakens confined in a shabby hotel room, with no explanation of where he is or why he is there. He is not allowed visitors, nor phone calls, and is fed only fried dumplings through a narrow slot. Experiencing hysteria and hallucinations during his captivity, he frequently attempts suicide but is often gassed into unconsciousness. Dae-su, resigned to his fate, keeps himself occupied with shadowboxing and recording his captivity with tattoos, using a television as his calendar as he describes it. He trains for fighting by punching an outline of a man painted on the wall. While watching television, Dae-su discovers that his wife has been murdered, his daughter sent to foster parents and that he himself is the prime murder suspect. Dae-su makes plans to escape, and begins to tunnel through the wall. Close to the realization of his plan, Dae-su is set free on the rooftop of a building with a new suit of clothes and his prison diaries, fifteen years after his imprisonment began. Upon his release, Dae-su meets the man attempting to commit suicide by jumping off the edge. Saving the man seconds before he falls, Dae-su tells him his story up to this point.

As the man starts his own tale, Dae-su gives up interest and wanders off, mugging a woman for her sunglasses. As the woman attempts to get help from a policeman, the jumper falls onto a car in the building's courtyard, allowing Dae-su to escape. While wandering the streets of the city, Dae-su meets Mi-do (Kang Hye-jeong), a sushi chef at a local restaurant, who takes pity on him when he passes out and brings him to her home. Receiving a phone call from his still unidentified former captor, Dae-su resolves to find him and locates the restaurant that provided the fried dumplings during his imprisonment, following the delivery boy to his former prison. Once inside, Dae-su ambushes the warden and tortures him for information, which includes tape recordings of his captor, his only spoken motive being that "Oh Dae-su talks too much." Dae-su fights his way out of the prison past hordes of guards, suffering several serious wounds before escaping. Collapsing in the street, a stranger places him in a taxi, only to direct him to Mi-do's address and identify Dae-su by name, showing his face briefly, which Dae-su knows but can't place, before the taxi leaves. The next day, the man, named Woo-jin (Yu Ji-tae) reveals himself as Dae-su's kidnapper and offers Dae-su the chance to play a game, where he must discover Woo-jin's motives behind Dae-su's kidnapping. Mi-do will die if he fails, but if he succeeds, Woo-jin will kill himself. Later, Dae-su discovers he and Woo-jin briefly attended the same high school. During the investigation, Dae-su and Mi-do grow closer together and become physically and emotionally intimate, culminating in them having sex. Chasing his memories, Dae-su remembers spying on Woo-jin's incestuous relationship with his sister, Soo-ah (Yun Jin-seo) and, unaware of their genetic relationship, inadvertently spreads the rumor before transferring to another school in Seoul. Eventually, the rumor grew to include a pregnancy, which may or may not have been real, leading to Soo-ah's death, theoretically a suicide.

Dae-su confronts Woo-jin with the information and accuses Woo-jin of killing his own sister to cover up the scandal. Woo-jin instead gives Dae-su a final gift, a photo album containing Dae-su's family portrait. As Dae-su flips through the album, he witnesses his daughter grow older in the pictures, until discovering that Mi-do is actually his daughter. Woo-jin reveals that Dae-su's kidnapping, incarceration, the murder of his wife and the upbringing of his daughter were all orchestrated to cause Dae-su and Mi-do to commit incest. It is also revealed that hypnosis and post hypnotic suggestion were involved with Dae-Su's imprisonment, and had been performed on Mi-Do as well. Dae-su is left horrified at the fact that he and his daughter have become romantic lovers. Dae-su begs Woo-jin to conceal the secret from Mi-Do, groveling for forgiveness before slicing out his own tongue and offering it to Woo-jin as a symbol of his silence. Woo-jin agrees to spare Mi-do from the traumatic knowledge and leaves Dae-su in his penthouse with the words "My sister and I loved each other despite everything. Can you two do the same?". As Woo-jin rides alone in the elevator, he is struck by the vivid memory of his sister's death, which was a suicide he assisted, and shoots himself in the head.

In the epilogue, Dae-su sits in a winter landscape, where he makes a deal with the same hypnotist who had hyponotized him while imprisoned, asking for her help to allow him to forget the secret. She reads his pleas from a handwritten letter and touched by his words, begins the hypnosis process, lulling him into unconsciousness. Hours later, Dae-su wakes up, the hypnotist gone, and stumbles about before finally meeting with Mi-do. They embrace, and the soft spoken Mi-do tells Dae-su that she loves him. His broad smile slowly disappears into an odd expression, neither obviously happy nor unhappy (also alludes to the motif phrase "laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone" that is referenced several times throughout the movie).

[edit] Ending

The ending is deliberately ambiguous, and the audience is left with several questions: specifically, how much time has passed, if Dae-Su's meeting with the hypnotist really took place, and whether he successfully lost the knowledge of Mi-do's identity and whether he will continue his relationship with Mi-do.

In an interview director Park Chan-Wook says that the ambiguous ending was intended to generate discussion; it is completely up to each individual viewer to interpret.

[edit] Cast

  • Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su: The film's protagonist, who has been imprisoned for somewhere around 15 years.
  • Yu Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin: The man behind Oh Dae-su's imprisonment
  • Kang Hye-jeong as Mi-do: Dae-su's love interest.
  • Ji Dae-han as No Joo-hwan: Dae-su's friend and the owner of a cybercafe.
  • Kim Byeong-ok as Mr. Han: Bodyguard of Woo-jin
  • Oh Tae-kyung as Young Dae-su
  • Ahn Yeon-suk as Young Woo-jin
  • Oo Il-han as Young Joo-hwan
  • Yun Jin-seo as Lee Soo-ah: Woo-jin's sister
  • Oh Dal-su as Park Cheol-woong: The private prison's manager.

[edit] Box office

In South Korea, the film was seen by 3,132,000 moviegoers. (It ranks fifth place for the highest grossing film of 2003[5] and 32nd in all-time national movie box-office records.)

It grossed a total of US$14,980,005 worldwide.[6]

[edit] Critical reception

Oldboy received generally positive reviews from Western critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 82% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 120 reviews.[7] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 74 out of 100, based on 31 reviews.[8]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars (out of four). Ebert remarked: "We are so accustomed to 'thrillers' that exist only as machines for creating diversion that it's a shock to find a movie in which the action, however violent, makes a statement and has a purpose."[3]

James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three stars (out of four), saying that it "isn't for everyone, but it offers a breath of fresh air to anyone gasping on the fumes of too many traditional Hollywood thrillers."[9]

Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com praised the film, calling it "anguished, beautiful, and desperately alive" and "a dazzling work of pop-culture artistry."[10] Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave Oldboy a score of "B-," calling it "a bloody and brutal revenge film immersed in madness and directed with operatic intensity," but felt that the questions raised by the film are "lost in the battering assault of lovingly crafted brutality."[11]

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times gave a lukewarm review, saying that "there is not much to think about here, outside of the choreographed mayhem."[12] J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader was also not impressed, saying that "there's a lot less here than meets the eye."[13]

[edit] Controversy over Zinda

Zinda, the Bollywood film directed by Sanjay Gupta, also bears a striking resemblance to Oldboy but is not an officially sanctioned remake. It was reported in 2005 that Zinda was under investigation for violation of copyright. A spokesman for Show East, the distributor of Oldboy, said, "if we find out there's indeed a strong similarity between the two, it looks like we'll have to talk with our lawyers."[14]

[edit] Awards

[edit] Soundtrack

Old Boy Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Old Boy Original Motion Picture Soundtrack cover
Soundtrack by Jo Yeong-Wook
Released December 9, 2003 (South Korea)
Recorded 2003
Genre Soundtrack
Length 1:00
Label EMI Music Korea Ltd.

According to the released soundtrack, nearly all the music cues composed by Jo Yeong-Wook are titled after movies, many of them film noirs.

  1. Look Who's Talking (Opening song)
    Amy Heckerling film
  2. Somewhere in the Night
    Joseph L. Mankiewicz film
  3. The Count of Monte Cristo - A novel by Alexandre Dumas, adapted many times to film
    Joseph L. Mankiewicz film
  4. Jailhouse Rock
    Richard Thorpe film
  5. In a Lonely Place
    Nicholas Ray film
  6. It's Alive
    Larry Cohen film
  7. The Searchers
    John Ford film
  8. Look Back in Anger
    Tony Richardson film
  9. Vivaldi - Four Seasons Concerto Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter)
  10. Room at the Top
    Jack Clayton film
  11. Cries and Whispers (Woo-Jin's theme)
    Ingmar Bergman film
  12. Out of Sight
    Steven Soderbergh film
  13. For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Sam Wood film based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway
  14. Out of the Past
    Jacques Tourneur film
  15. Breathless
    Jean-Luc Godard film
  16. The Old Boy (Dae-Su's theme)
  1. Dressed to Kill
    Brian De Palma film
  2. Frantic
    Roman Polanski film
  3. Cul-de-Sac
    Roman Polanski film
  4. Kiss Me Deadly
    Robert Aldrich film
  5. Point Blank
    John Boorman film
  6. Farewell, My Lovely
    Dick Richards film based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
  7. The Big Sleep
    Howard Hawks film based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
  8. The Last Waltz (Mido's theme)
    Martin Scorsese film

[edit] DVD Release

Tartan Asian Extreme has released several editions of the film in Region One territories, including a single-disc edition, featuring the film and a small amount of special features.

A three-disc collector's edition has also been released, featuring a mass amount of features, including:

  • Three Audio Commentary Tracks with the Director, Cinematographer and Cast
  • Five Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Interviews with the Cast and Crew
  • A Featurette titled: "Le Grand Prix at Cannes"
  • And a three-and-a-half hour making-of documentary entitled "The Autobiography of Oldboy" [22]

[edit] Remake

An American remake previously had director Justin Lin, best known for the teen crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow, attached.[23] In November 2008, DreamWorks and Universal were securing the rights to the remake, which Will Smith has expressed interest in starring, with Steven Spielberg as director.[24] Mark Protosevich was in talks to write the script, although the acquisition to the remake rights were not finalized.[25] Smith has clarified Spielberg will not be remaking the film though: he is adapting the manga itself,[26] which lacks the octopus eating and incest invented for the film.[27]

[edit] Trivia

  • The octopus being eaten alive was no special effect but a real animal; four were used during the making of this scene. Actor Choi Min-sik, a Buddhist, said a prayer for each one. It should also be noted that the eating of live octopuses (called sannakji (산낙지) in Korean) as a delicacy is not unheard of in East Asia, although it is usually cut, not eaten whole. When asked if he felt sorry for the actor Choi Min-sik, director Park Chan-wook stated he felt more sorry for the octopus.
  • The corridor fight scene took seventeen takes in three days to perfect, and contrary to popular belief, it was actually just one continuous take - there was no editing of any sort except for the knife that was stabbed in Oh Dae-su's back, which was CGI. Though the scene has often been compared visually to side scrolling beat 'em up video games, director Park Chan-wook has stated the similarity was unintentional.
  • Choi Min-sik lost and gained weight for his role depending on the filming schedule, trained for six weeks and did most of his stunt work.
  • Computer-generated imagery include the ant coming out of Oh Dae-su's arm (according to the making-of on the DVD the whole arm was computer-generated imagery) and the ants crawling over Oh Dae-su afterwards.
  • When Oh Dae-su wakes up and sees Mi-do reading his diary he grabs it and jumps back into bed, bumping his head; the making-of shows the bumping was not intentional.
  • The final scene's snowy landscape was filmed in New Zealand.
  • Actor Choi Min-sik improvised most of his lines during the confrontation with Woo-jin.
  • Park Chan-wook's ideal choice for Woo-jin had been actor Han Suk-kyu, who previously played a rival to Choi Min-sik in Shiri and No. 3. Choi then suggested Yu Ji-tae for the role, despite Park's reservation about his youthful age.[28]
  • The portrait of a grotesque smiling face in Oh Dae-su's confinement room is based on The Man of Sorrows by James Ensor.
  • The line on the painting of Dae Su's cell reads "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone." These are the first lines of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's famous poem, "Solitude".
  • Throughout the whole movie, Mi-do is actually saying "mister" in Korean to Dae-su, following the system of honorifics in Korean. (This could also be a reference to the original manga, in which the protagonist's girlfriend only refers to him as "mister".) However, the subtitles simply show the character's name. Similarly, Woo-jin refers to Soo-ah with a title typically reserved for one's older sibling, though it may also mean a very close friend.
  • Track 11 and 15 of the film's soundtrack heavily borrow their melody from the 3rd movement of Johannes Brahms' 3rd Symphony.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ The Best Selling Films of 2003, Koreanfilm.org. retrieved on April 17, 2008.
  2. ^ "Consensus of Oldboy reviews". Rottentomatoes.com. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/oldboy/. Retrieved on 2007-04-11. 
  3. ^ a b "Ebert review". Roger Ebert. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050324/REVIEWS/50310001/1023. Retrieved on 2007-04-11. 
  4. ^ http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20081112-171695/CNN-Himala-best-Asian-film-in-history
  5. ^ Korean Movie Reviews for 2003: Save the Green Planet, Memories of Murder, A Tale of Two Sisters, Old Boy, Silmido, and more
  6. ^ "Oldboy (2005)". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=oldboy.htm. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  7. ^ "Oldboy Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/oldboy/. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  8. ^ "Oldboy (2005): Reviews". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/oldboy. Retrieved on 2008-05-20. 
  9. ^ Review by James Berardinelli, ReelViews
  10. ^ Review by Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com
  11. ^ Review by Sean Axmaker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  12. ^ Review by Manohla Dargis, New York Times
  13. ^ Review by J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
  14. ^ Oldboy Makers Plan Vengeance on Zinda, TwitchFilm
  15. ^ "All The Awards (2004)". Cannes Film Festival. http://www.festival-cannes.fr/archives/prix.php?langue=6002&edition=2004. Retrieved on 2007-04-10. 
  16. ^ "Grand Bell Awards, South Korea (2004)". IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Grand_Bell_Awards_South_Korea/2004. Retrieved on 2007-04-10. 
  17. ^ "Asia-Pacific Film Festival (2004)". IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Asia-Pacific_Film_Festival/2004. Retrieved on 2007-04-10. 
  18. ^ "Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival (2004)". IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Sitges_-_Catalonian_International_Film_Festival/2004. Retrieved on 2007-04-10. 
  19. ^ "Awards (2004)". Bergen International Film Festival. http://www.biff.no/2006/index.php3?ID=Priser&Eng=Ja. Retrieved on 2007-04-10. 
  20. ^ "Winners (2004)". The British Independent Film Awards. http://www.bifa.org.uk/winners.php?ceremony=9. Retrieved on 2007-04-10. 
  21. ^ "The Nominations (2004)". The European Film Awards. http://www.europeanfilmacademy.org/htm/4Nominations2004.html. Retrieved on 2007-04-10. 
  22. ^ http://www.asiaextremefilms.com/pg_films_detail.asp?fid={CB23120D-531C-4501-9C1B-6EF8E5255CED}
  23. ^ "Justin Lin Talks 'Fast & Furious 4' Gig and 'Oldboy' Departure". JustPressPlay.net. http://www.justpressplay.net/movies/the-fast-and-the-furious-4/news/justin-lin-talks-fast--furious-4-gig-and-oldboy-departure.html. 
  24. ^ Michael Fleming (2008-11-06). "Spielberg, Smith in talks for 'Oldboy'". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117995429.html?categoryid=13&cs=1. Retrieved on 2008-11-07. 
  25. ^ Jay A. Fernandez and Steven Zeitchik (2008-11-19). "DreamWorks sets up 'Old Boy' club". The Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3ia94c7ef2006ea33d10029e7153ab1f22. Retrieved on 2008-11-19. 
  26. ^ Brian C. Gibson (2008-11-21). "Will Smith Says Oldboy Won’t be Adaptation of Chan-wook Park’s Film". Film School Rejects. http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/news/exclusive-will-smith-talks-oldboy.php. Retrieved on 2008-11-21. 
  27. ^ Elizabeth Rappe (2008-11-21). "Will Smith Definitely Starring In ‘Oldboy,’ Says Steven Spielberg Film Won’t Be A Remake". MTV Movies Blog. http://splashpage.mtv.com/2008/11/21/will-smith-definitely-starring-in-oldboy-says-steven-spielberg-film-wont-be-a-remake/. Retrieved on 2008-11-21. 
  28. ^ Cine21 Interview about Park's revenge trilogy; April 27, 2007.

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Grand Prix, Cannes
Succeeded by
Broken Flowers
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