Oldboy - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Oldboy Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 30, 2006
Daesu Oh is a drunk and a philanderer but otherwise a fairly typical husband and father, until one day he is kidnapped and imprisoned in a cell for 15 years with only a TV set for company and no word of explanation. One day he wakes up on the outside with only a wallet and a phone, and he sets out on a single-minded quest to find out why he was imprisoned and extract bloody vengeance on those responsible. The second part of the Vengeance Trilogy by Chan-wook Park, Oldboy is a bizarre and brilliant film. It constantly wrong foots you and messes with your perceptions, and contains the kind of revelation that makes the kind of so-called plot "twists" of most films look gimmicky and inane. This is the kind of film that blows you away and makes you realise you've been watching the WHOLE THING from the wrong standpoint. As for Min-sik Choi's performance, astonishing is the only word for it...the way such intense emotions and motivations are constantly shifting without ever feeling contrived or forced is just spellbinding. It combines art and extreme violence in a way that reminded me of A Clockwork Orange, but better! It's also stylistically on the same level as Fight Club and is absolutely riveting from beginning to end. A virtually flawless modern masterpiece.
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2009
A disturbing, dark, but undeniably creatively constructed melodrama concerning a man (Choi Min-sik) who on the evening of his daughter's birthday, is captured and locked away for 15 years and not told why, before being suddenly, inexplicably released into the world, where he seeks vengeance against his captor. This is a hard movie to recommend because the subject material is so disgusting and unlikable, but from a pure artistic perspective and how everything is put together, this is a phenomenal film. It is really a modern-day Shakespearean tale acted to perfection, with twists in the story that are definitely sick and shocking. Proceed with caution, but in the end this is a really, really well done movie that is worthy of the cult following it has garnered over the years. The ending will leave you picking up what is left of your brain off the floor.
Super Reviewer
½ March 4, 2013
Oldboy is the sequel to Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and is a well thought out movie that ranks up there as one of the greatest revenge films ever made. Although a Korean movie, this is nonetheless a superb piece of cinema a, one that ever serious film fan should definitely check out. The level of filmmaking is superb and director Chan-Wook Park crafts a blistering picture that has stood out above others in the genre. This is a brilliantly shot picture that will certainly appeal to genre fans looking for something truly different. Oldboy is an in your face type of movie, one that doesn't shy away from its violent content, and it's one of the few film where the violence is an integral part of the story, and not used in an unnecessary manner. Along with that there is a truly compelling and well layered plot that entertains you from start to finish. Acting wise, the cast deliver some wonderful, convincing performances and in terms of a strong sequel, Oldboy is a worthwhile follow up that exceeds expectations. Korean cinema in the last few years has seen some stellar films, and Oldboy is one such prime example of the genres standout features. This is a near flawless picture that is haunting in its plot and tells a stellar revenge story that is sure to delight cinema buffs everywhere. Oldboy is a disturbing ride, but one that is worth taking if you love a well crafted movie that tells a great story. The direction is immaculate the performances are wonderful, and the film will certainly stay with you long after you've seen it. The scenes that use a heavy dose of violence are not for the squeamish and add to the experience that director Chan Wook Park is trying to convey in his Vengeance trilogy and it works brilliantly. Oldboy is a riveting masterwork that elevates the revenge genre to whole new levels.
Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2011
I'm exhausted. This is easily one of the more emotionally grueling films I've watched in a while. Part two of his so-called 'vengeance trilogy', this is Park Chan-wook's offbeat and violent story of vengeance and punishment about a businessman who is mysteriously imprisoned in a private hotel room like cell for 15 years. When he's suddenly released, he is given 5 days to figure out why he was imprisoned, and get revenge.

I'd heard this was a highly acclaimed film, and, thankfully, aside from the "corridor fight" I really knew basically nothing about this, and that's a good thing. The less you know, the better, as part of why this is great is the experience of seeing the story unfold.

It's dark, twisted, and really unsettling, but it has a point, and the moments of strong violence are justified. Plus, there's some well placed moments of quirky humor which are good since a story like this could do with some occasional levity.

Despite the bleak and lurid subject matter, this film is actually quite gorgeous, and very well shot, It's slick, stylish, and very artful. The aforementioned "corridor fight" is amazing, especially since it's done in a single take. It's not the only sequence that sings though, but it is a clear highlight.

The music is quite good, the writing and direction strong, and the performances, especially Min-sik Choi in the lead, are all pretty solid. The dubbing kinda stuck out, and not in a good way, but that's really my only complaint here.

This is compelling stuff, and a great thriller. Definitely check it out.
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2012
A guilty pleasure in the most disturbing, savage and grotesque way. A deranged, twisted, disturbingly mind-blowing revenge tale that will make you want to vomit when you get to the finale twist. Even when you have it figured out, you still have a serious kick to the head afterwards and are still trying to figure out if any of it happened. A shocking, bloody, vastly original and heart-pounding action-packed thrill-ride. It`s filled with energy, visual dazzle and nail-biting suspense from start to finish. A dark, brooding, disgusting and unforgettable film. It goes way over the line, into places you wouldn't think a film would go. A blisteringly funny and provocative work from Director, Chan Wook Park. A brutal masterpiece. Min-sik Choi gives a powerful, effective and unforgettable performance bursting with intensity, emotion and incredible energy. A revenge classic that boils your blood and makes it simmer in your veins. There are times where i wasn't sure if i liked the film or if i hate, i guess theirs a love-hate relationship with the film, i admire it for its originality and vision but hate its for its overwhelming brutality and dark nature at the end that makes you sick to your stomach. Overall its truly brilliant.
Super Reviewer
½ February 22, 2011
What an incredibly disturbing but impeccably well-made masterpiece. Min-sik Choi, who plays as Oh Dae-su, the main character, was absolutely mesmerizing. Because this movie is a South-Korean movie, the plot unravels in a way that is very unfamiliar to American audiences. Everything is so well crafted but the real winner of this movie is the plot. A must watch... but it is absolutely not a movie for those who are under 17.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2011
Dae-su Oh: Even though I'm no more than a monster - don't I, too, have the right to live? 

"15 years of imprisonment, 5 days of vengeance."

Oldboy is the second film in Chan-Wook Park's revenge trilogy and it is widely regarded as the best in the trilogy. Even if you don't like violent movie, which I do, there is no denying just how well made Oldboy is. The film is put together magnificently well on every level. It looks great, it's well acted, the score is tremendous. There's nothing about it that isn't top notch. I really enjoyed the movie, but I don't feel like it is one of the best movies ever like many. 

Dae-su Oh is taken prisoner for 15 years. While locked up, he eats only one thing for 15 years and his only entertainment is a television. One day he wakes up freed and begins to seek revenge on the people responsible for his being prisoner for 15 years and also for the death of his wife, which everyone believes he did. The movie isn't your standard revenge film where something is done to a guy, so he seeks revenge and that's all there really is. This has much more depth than the standard revenge film has. 

The movie is violent and bloody, but not nearly as disgusting as I was led to believe. The violence isn't overdone, in my opinion. In fact, I kind of expected more. It's also not only done for pure shock value or to just gross out the audience. Everything works together to get the movie where Park wants to take it and maybe everyone doesn't enjoy watching what he's showing, but he's going to show it nonetheless. 
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2011
I liked Oldboy's main concept and original visual style, but ultimately it just didn't have the effect on me that it has on so many others. From the beginning it felt a lot like Brian De Palma's Obsession and as the movie progressed it just became more and more similar. Take away the violence and it's essentially the same idea. Now it's not so directly similar that it's call it a rip-off, but the entire ending is completely ruined when you can see it coming a mile away. Like most people would agree, it's hard not to address the completely bizarre elements here. The goofy characters and execution is so out of the ordinary that sometimes this feels like the inner mind of an insane person. Maybe i'm just not a fan of the style and/or storytelling. I can appreciate the movie and I realize the huge fanbase it has, but I just don't see why it's so undeniably great and perfect. To me, it was nothing all that new and a lot of the time it just seemed to be trying to hard to be strange and push the limit of social taboos. Maybe if the ending was as much of a surprise to me as others, I would appreciate it more. However, it just seemed so obvious to me about what was going to happen. In fact, I would've been surprised if it didn't end the way it did.
Super Reviewer
½ June 17, 2009
i think i've seen three asian films this year and two of them involve a man cutting off his own tongue. i was thinking of seeing some Takashi Miike or John Woo or something but fuck, i should leave my mushroom and ham pizza alone while im watching i guess.
Ariuza k.
Super Reviewer
April 16, 2011
Old Boy is one of my favourite films. As far as I can see, no amount of superlatives could explain quite how much I love it. After my first viewing, (all on my lonesome) I realised I probably hadn't blinked during its entirety and I could quite possibly have been burgled during its course and been none the wiser, such was the extent to which I found it totally and utterly engrossing. Obviously a review consisting of very little other than me spewing praise would be a fairly dull read which was why I never bothered to review Old Boy until after my second viewing, with my Po'. My father being the eternal sceptic that he is turned out to be an extremely worthy person to watch the film with, and his response to it opened my eyes a little as to why I love it that much.

The plot itself is as follows. The protagonist Oh Dae-Su is one day captured and finds himself locked up in a makeshift prison. After a brief spell of anger and spewing hatred for his captors, he resigns himself to his fate, and after 15 years of shadow boxing and suicide attempts he wakes up from a gas induced coma on top of a tower block where he was initially seized. He then proceeds to try and find out who did this and why, and the film basically charts this quest.

The first word that springs to mind when thinking about this film has to be graphic. There are certain scenes which will make those of nervous disposition recoil until they are firmly wedged between the back and seat of their sofa, and they are likely to spend much of the film there as violence is frequent. In most of the extreme cases it is simply the implication of violence and the viewer's imagination when left to its own devices like this will cause its own disgust. This hurdle was a huge thing problem for my dad, who considered some of the violence to be gratuitous, which I can somewhat agree with, although certain scenes are completely integral to the plot. The best way I can justify these scenes is simple. It is all about sending a message, and these do just that. If you can cope with this then you will break down the initial barrier the film leaves lying in the way of your enjoyment.

Many of the themes you will pick up on and the method of direction is very synonymous with Quentin Tarantino. There are devices used in this film which have obviously taken inspiration from Tarantino's works, in particular the Pulp Fiction- esquire use of camera angles, and the famous dotted line sequence. However, Tarantino is himself a huge fan of Old Boy, being its main advocate to win the 2003 Palme d'Or (where it eventually lost out to Fahrenheit 9/11) and has stated Park Chan-Wook as an influence for his directing style on the Kill Bill series, as well as on his later grindhouse works Death Proof and Planet Terror. Chan-Wook takes on a policy of "trust the director", and leaves many questions throughout the film which gives it a somewhat disorientating feel at times. This method of directing can seem quite inaccessible, however all loose ends are tied up very satisfactorily in the enthralling and shocking climax. This is an ending to rival the classic Kaiser Sozé twist in the tail of The Usual Suspects.

What really separated and elevates Chan-Wook's work above and beyond Tarantino's however is very simple. Much of Tarantino's work is undertaken as an exercise in direction and film making, and therefore his work can therefore feel shallow. Old Boy however is a film which assesses the deepest corners of the human heart. The middle of three films which make up Chan-Wook's Vengeance Trilogy it is undoubtedly the masterpiece, with a more powerful message than Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This film has power because of the depths to which it explores the flaws and forces the human heart possesses, stronger and more destructive than any wisdom can overcome. The performances of the main cast and most importantly the director to send this message to the viewer leave this film as about as close to perfection as I can see any film getting.
Super Reviewer
½ January 6, 2009
I had heard that Oldboy was violent and gory. I suppose that is true, but it's relative to your point of reference. Yes it has violence, but most of it is so over-the-top that it is actually comic. Yes it has gore but, much like Hitchcock's Psycho, good editing tricks you into 'seeing' more than you actually do. Plus, like I've said many times before, I don't mind a little blood and guts if it advances the story and isn't just for shock value. This is smart horror done right. A well written, fantastically constructed film that, no doubt, is destined to be poorly imitated by some profit-driven Hollywood studio in the very near future.
Super Reviewer
½ August 1, 2009
Disturbing, twisted, violent, beautiful, haunting. And you thought Kick-Ass was a dark comic book movie. Full review later.
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2010
I watched the first half in Korean with subtitles, and the seond half in dubbed English, so I have mixed emotions. Overall, this film changed my entire persona. I felt things unreal and unsettling, which has not happened with a viewing in some time. I can't say that I knew what was going to happen next, or what the plot was always trying to convey, or who the characters really were under their strange shells. Yet, this is just one of those films that grabs you, shakes you, and plants you back to Earth.
Super Reviewer
June 10, 2006
Dae-su Oh: Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.

I guess flixster messed up and erased everyone's Oldboy reviews, so here it is again...

Dae-su Oh: If they had told me it was going to be fifteen years, would it have been easier to endure?

The second part of Chan-Wook Park's vengeance trilogy, this film centers on Oh Dae-su, played by Min-sik Choi. We are first introduced to him as a man in a police station, drunk, and babbling. Probably not a bad guy, but in some trouble. After being bailed out by his friend, Oh Dae-su is suddenly kidnapped and put in a prison designed to look like a cheap motel room.

Od Dae-su is forced to stay in this room for 15 years. During that time he learns that his wife has been murdered, and his daughter has been given to a family in Europe. Oh Dae-su goes understandably a little crazy during his time spent in this room, learning how to fight through shadow boxing, dying to get revenge if he is ever released.

Woo-jin Lee: Remember this: "Be it a rock or a grain of sand, in water they sink as the same."

Once Oh Dae-su is released, he has plans for revenge, but the games is not over for him, as his capture soon meets up with him, and gives him 5 days to find out the real reason why he was imprisoned. This leads to the reveal of questionable pasts and the truth of certain matters.

Dae-su Oh: Even though I'm no more than a monster - don't I, too, have the right to live?

This film is impeccably made. Skillfully crafted. Wonderfully acted. Beautifully scored. And has an awesome story.

Park's direction is wonderful. The film is not paced slow per se, but the plot is revealed over time. The visual style is completely fitting and works well with set ups for each character. And the score is wonderfully appropriate and classy.

Dae-su Oh: Revenge is good for your health, but pain will find you again.

Min-sik Choi as Oh Dae-su is amazing. He completely embodies this character, giving it his all to create a tour de force performance.

Then you have some of the stunning and memorable scenes. One involving a live octopus and the other involving a single take of an excellently executed fight scene.

The story is also very layered, making it perfect for repeated viewings, and giving the viewer multiple ways to interpret things.

Dae-su Oh: Can the imaginary training of fifteen years be put to use?
Dae-su Oh: [Dae-su beats up his assailants] Yes. It can.

It also helps that there is a sweet cool vibe running throughout this wonderful story that combines a Hitchcock setup, sweet visuals, and some unruly violence to make an awesome film overall.

Dae-su Oh: [after a very messy beating] Anyone here with an AB blood type, raise your hand.
Super Reviewer
½ September 21, 2007
I felt as if the film needed to watched while on mind-altering drugs. I may have enjoyed it a bit more. It wasn't bad to watch, but just a little out there for me. It was alright with an interesting story.
Super Reviewer
½ December 31, 2006
A good Korean film, if quite odd at times. However it is a great tale of revenge with some surprising twists. Well worth checking out.
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2007
"15 years of imprisonment, five days of vengeance"

After being kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in 5 days.

I thought this was one of the best films I have ever seen, a remarkably imagined and executed tour de force where every scene is a masterpiece. Acting from all three leads was not just good, but tremendous and the direction is unbelievable - visceral, imaginative, original, energetic, and yet sensitive and touching. Special mention has to go to the score - which is one of the best I have ever heard.

This was a movie that was very, very exciting, but even more so, very, very moving. I have yet to see a movie that explores the pointlessness of revenge and the burden of memories and the past so thoughtfully. Personally I enjoyed Kill Bill but whereas that was great, if shallow, fun, this is something else entirely. It is a stunning movie that succeeds both as an action thriller and as a powerful, affecting tragedy.

It is not an easy film to watch besides the frequently brutal violence, it reaches climaxes of extreme emotional intensity. However it established Chanwook Park as a major talent in world cinema.
Super Reviewer
May 2, 2009
The movie starts strong but as it goes on it weakens until the so so ending that just didn't do it for me.
I loved the way the movie was put together. Editing and cinematography worked well.
I can see why this movie gets such high praise but I don't think it lived up to the hype. The main character was great through most of the movie but dropped badly at the end. The breakdown was mostly silly and didn't have an emotional effect on me.
Other than that the mystery surrounding his imprisonment was well drawn out but the conclusion was lacking.
Super Reviewer
May 24, 2009
Not something I can watch every day... or even every year, but something that permanently scars you... for the better, I swear.
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