Oldboy (2003 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Park Chan-wook|
|Produced by||Im Seung-yong
|Written by||Hwang Jo-yoon
|Based on||Old Boy
by Garon Tsuchiya
|Music by||Jo Yeong-wook|
|Edited by||Kim Sang-beom|
|Distributed by||Show East (KR)
Tartan Films (US/UK)
|Box office||$15 million|
Oldboy (Hangul: 올드보이; RR: Oldeuboi; MR: Oldŭboi) is a 2003 South Korean mystery thriller neo-noir film directed by Park Chan-wook. It is based on the 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 film follows the story of 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 violence. 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. Critically, the film has been well received in the United States, with an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert claimed that Oldboy is a "powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare". In 2008 voters on CNN named it one of the ten best Asian films ever made. A remake with the same title was released in 2013 in the United States.
In 1988, businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is arrested for drunken behavior, missing his daughter's 4th birthday. After his friend, Joo-hwan (Ji Dae-han), picks him up from the police station, they go to a phone booth to call home to let Dae-su's family know of his whereabouts. While Joo-hwan is talking to Dae-su's wife on the phone, Dae-su is kidnapped. He wakes up in a solitary confinement in a hotel-like prison. Confined with no human contact or explanation for his kidnapping and frequently gassed with a possibly mind altering drug, Dae-su soon learns through news reports his wife has been murdered, and he is the prime suspect. Dae-su passes the time shadowboxing, planning revenge, and secretly attempting to tunnel out of his cell.
In 2003, exactly 15 years after he was imprisoned, he is released without reason on a rooftop. Dae-su receives a taunting phone call from his captor, who refuses to explain why he was imprisoned. Later he collapses at a sushi restaurant and is taken in by Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), the restaurant's young chef. After Dae-su, in a fit of insanity and the loss of the human touch, tries to sexually assault her, she confides that she reciprocates his attraction, and states she will have sex with him when she is ready.
Meanwhile, Dae-su also tries to find his daughter and discovers that she was adopted by a Swedish couple after his wife's death. Recalling the dumplings he ate while in prison, Dae-su locates the restaurant that made them and tracks a delivery man to the place where he was held: a private prison where people can pay to have others incarcerated for an amount of time. He tortures the prison warden, Mr. Park, by pulling out 15 of his teeth (one for every year Dae-su was held captive) and for information. Mr. Park leads him to a recorded conversation between Mr. Park and Dae-su's captor, learning only that he was held captive for "talking too much".
Dae-su finally finds his captor, a wealthy man named Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae). Woo-jin gives Dae-su an ultimatum: discover the motive for his imprisonment in five days and Woo-jin will kill himself. If not, Mi-do will die. As Dae-su prepares to torture Woo-jin the same way he tortured Mr. Park, Woo-jin tells Dae-su that he has a remote for turning on and off his pacemaker, and is willing to shut it off and commit suicide before he can be tortured. Left with no other options, Dae-su sets out to complete Woo-jin's mission. As Dae-su and Mi-do grow emotionally intimate, they soon have sex. Dae-su discovers he and Woo-jin attended the same high school, and remembers accidentally witnessing an incestuous encounter between Woo-jin and his sister, Soo-ah. Unaware of the familial ties, Dae-su inadvertently spread a rumor about the relationship before moving to Seoul. As a result of the rumor, Soo-ah suffered from false signs of pregnancy and committed suicide. Joining Dae-su's side after having his hand amputated by Woo-jin, Mr. Park agrees to incarcerate and protect Mi-do while Dae-su confronts his nemesis.
Arriving at Woo-jin's penthouse, Dae-su admits he accidentally drove Soo-ah to suicide. Woo-jin reveals how each of Dae-su's movements were meticulously planned by him through posthypnotic suggestions, then gives Dae-su a photo album that contains photos of a girl from childbirth all the way to young adulthood, which ultimately turns out to be Mi-do, revealing Mi-do as Dae-su's actual daughter. The daughter he'd seen in footage provided by Woo-jin had merely been a forgery. Woo-jin had imprisoned Dae-su for 15 years so that Mi-do would be old enough to fall in love with Dae-su, and then used hypnosis to ensure that the two fell in love, with the intent on making Dae-su feel the same pain he previously felt.
Horrified and enraged, Dae-su rushes at Woo-jin, but his bodyguard, Mr. Han, intervenes; the two fight, and Mr. Han easily subdues him. Woo-jin then calmly shoots Mr. Han and reveals to Dae-Su that Mr. Park is still working for him and will give a similar album to Mi-do. Dae-su begs Woo-jin to spare Mi-do the truth, pretending to be a dog and cutting out his own tongue as gestures of atonement. Woo-jin calls Mr. Park to tell him not to open the album then gives Dae-su the remote to his pacemaker. A still-furious Dae-su presses the remote multiple times, only for a tape recorder to start playing an audio recording of when Dae-su and Mi-do had sex, and Woo-jin calmly enters the elevator. Recalling his sister's death, Woo-jin shoots himself in the head as the elevator arrives on the first floor.
Some time later, Dae-su sits in a winter landscape with the hypnotist whom Woo-jin used; touched by Dae-su's handwritten story and pleas, she hypnotizes him and alters his memories so that he forgets the terrible secret. Mi-do then finds Dae-su alone in the snow, and tells him she loves him before embracing him. Dae-su breaks into a wide smile, but it is slowly replaced by a look of pain, bringing into question whether the hypnosis worked.
- Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su; he has been imprisoned for about 15 years. 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.
- Yoo Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin: The man behind Oh Dae-su's imprisonment. 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 Yoo Ji-tae for the role, despite Park's reservation about his youthful age.
- Kang Hye-jung as Mi-do: Dae-su's love interest.
- Ji Dae-han as No Joo-hwan: Dae-su's friend and the owner of an internet café.
- Kim Byeong-ok as Mr. Han: Bodyguard of Woo-jin.
- Oh Tae-kyung as young Dae-su
- Ahn Yeon-seok as young Woo-jin
- Woo Il-han as young Joo-hwan
- Yoon Jin-seo as Lee Soo-ah, Woo-jin's sister.
- Oh Dal-su as Park Cheol-woong, the private prison's manager.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (November 2014)|
The corridor fight scene took seventeen takes in three days to perfect and was 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 computer-generated imagery.
Other computer-generated imagery in the film includes the ant coming out of Oh Dae-su's arm (according to the making-of on the DVD the whole arm was CGI) and the ants crawling over Oh Dae-su afterwards. The octopus being eaten alive was not computer-generated; four were used during the making of this scene. Actor Choi Min-sik, a Buddhist, said a prayer for each one. The eating of live octopuses (called sannakji (산낙지) in Korean) as a delicacy exists in East Asia, although it is usually cut, not eaten whole. When asked in DVD commentary if he felt sorry for the actor Choi Min-sik, director Park Chan-wook stated he felt more sorry for the octopus.
The final scene's snowy landscape was filmed in New Zealand. 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, whether he successfully lost the knowledge of Mi-do's identity, and whether he will continue his relationship with Mi-do. In an interview (included with the European release of the film) director Park Chan-Wook says that the ambiguous ending was deliberate and intended to generate discussion; it is completely up to each individual viewer to interpret what isn't shown.
Oldboy received generally positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 80% based on 133 reviews. The site's consensus is "Violent and definitely not for the squeamish, Park Chan-Wook's visceral Oldboy is a strange, powerful tale of revenge." Metacritic gives the film an average score of 74 out of 100, based on 31 reviews. In 2008, it was placed 64th on the top 500 Empire movies of all time.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars. 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." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, 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."
Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com praised the film, calling it "anguished, beautiful, and desperately alive" and "a dazzling work of pop-culture artistry." Peter Bradshaw gave it 5/5 stars, commenting that this is the first time in which he could actually identify with a small live octopus. Bradshaw summarizes his review by referring to Oldboy as "cinema that holds an edge of cold steel to your throat." David Dylan Thomas points out that rather than simply trying to "gross us out", Oldboy is "much more interested in playing with the conventions of the revenge fantasy and taking us on a very entertaining ride to places that, conceptually, we might not want to go." 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."
PopMatters and WorldsGreatestCritic.com journalist J.C. Maçek III called Oldboy "extremely well-written and keeps all its cards hidden until just the right point to play each one. Oh, you might not like where it goes (this one makes Kill Bill look like Rent), but if you can appreciate artistic merit in your varied cinematic entertainment, then grow into Oldboy."
MovieGazette lists 10 features on its "It's Got" list for Oldboy and summarizes its review of Oldboy by saying, "Forget ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Man on Fire’ – this mesmerising revenger’s tragicomedy shows just how far-reaching the tentacles of mad vengeance can be." MovieGazette also comments that it "needs to be seen to be believed." Jamie Russell of the BBC movie review calls it a "sadistic masterpiece that confirms Korea's current status as producer of some of the world's most exciting cinema." 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." J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader was also not impressed, saying that "there's a lot less here than meets the eye." This film is ranked #18 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.
Oedipus The King Inspiration
Oldboy's director Park Chan-wook stated that he named the main character Oh Daesu "to remind the viewer of Oedipus."  In one of Oldboy's iconic shots, Yoo Ji-tae, who played Woo-jin, struck an extraordinary yoga pose. Park Chan-wook said he designed this to convey "the image of Apollo."  It was Apollo's prophecy that revealed Oedipus' fate, in Sophocles Oedipus. The link to Oedipus Rex is only a minor element in most English-language criticism of the movie. Koreans have made it a central theme. Sung Hee Kim wrote "Family seen through Greek tragedy and Korean movie -- Oedipus the King and Old Boy."  Kim Kyungae offers a different analysis, with Dea-su and Woo-jin both representing Oedipus. Besides the theme of unknown incest revealed, Oedipus gouges his eyes out to avoid seeing a world that despises his truth, while Oh Daesu cuts out his tongue to avoid revealing the truth to his world.
Box office performance
It grossed a total of US$14,980,005 worldwide.
Awards and nominations
|Asia Pacific Film Festival||Best Actor||Choi Min-sik||Won|
|Best Director||Park Chan-wook||Won|
|Austin Film Critics Association||Best Foreign Film||Won|
|Bangkok International Film Festival||Best Director (tied with Christophe Barratier for Les Choristes)||Park Chan-wook||Won|
|Belgian Film Critics Association||Grand Prix||Won|
|Bergen International Film Festival||Audience Award||Won|
|Blue Dragon Film Awards||Best Director||Won|
|Best Actor||Choi Min-sik||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Kang Hye-jung||Won|
|British Independent Film Awards||Best Foreign Independent Film||Won|
|Cannes Film Festival||Grand Prix||Park Chan-wook||Won|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Foreign Language Film||Nominated|
|Critics' Choice Movie Award||Best Foreign Language Film||Nominated|
|Director's Cut Awards||Best Director||Park Chan-wook||Won|
|Best Actor||Choi Min-sik||Won|
|Best Producer||Kim Dong-joo||Won|
|European Film Awards||Best Non-European Film||Park Chan-wook||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer Awards||Best Foreign Action Trailer (tied with District 13)||Won|
|Grand Bell Awards||Best Actor||Choi Min-sik||Won|
|Best Director||Park Chan-wook||Won|
|Best Film Editing||Kim Sang-beom||Won|
|Best Music||Jo Yeong-wook||Won|
|Hong Kong Film Award||Best Asian Film||Won|
|Korean Film Awards||Best Film||Won|
|Best Actor||Choi Min-sik||Won|
|Best Director||Park Chan-wook||Won|
|Best Music||Jo Yeong-wook||Won|
|Best Actress||Kang Hye-jung||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Yoon Jin-seo||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Chung Chung-hoon||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Ryu Seong-hee||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Kim Sang-beom||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society||Best Foreign Language Film||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best Action or Adventure Film||Nominated|
|Best DVD or Blu-ray Special Edition Release||Ultimate Collector's Edition||Nominated|
|Sitges Film Festival||Best Film||Park Chan-wook||Won|
|José Luis Guarner Critic's Award||Won|
|Stockholm International Film Festival||Audience Award||Park Chan-wook||Won|
Differences from the manga
- The manga, which precedes the film, is considerably tamer and less violent. No one dies in the manga except Lee Woo-jin's counterpart, Takaaki Kakinuma, also by a self-inflicted gunshot on the temple.
- Oh Dae-su is significantly different from Shinichi Goto, his manga counterpart. Goto is considerably less tormented than Oh Dae-su; Goto is remarkably calm and stoic, even during his captivity, unlike Oh Dae-su. Also, Goto is a towering man in peak physique at the time of his release in his 30s; Oh Dae-su is also on peak physique, though smaller and appearing to be at least in his late forties; Goto was imprisoned for ten years, while Oh Dae-su was imprisoned for fifteen. Goto, unlike Oh Dae-Su, seems rather uninterested in pursuing Kakinuma's ruse through the means of violence, instead initially opting to pursue a peaceful life; his pursuit of his captors is not driven by vengeance, but rather by curiosity, though he is later lured by Kakinuma into their conflict.
- Mi-Do's counterpart Eri is not Shinichi Goto's daughter, as Mi-Do is with Oh Dae-Su. Eri was hypnotically lured to Goto just as a means of surveillance and to burden Goto. As a result, Goto and his allies move her out of Kakinuma's reach so she does not become a target.
- Oh Dae-Su and Lee Woo-jin's former schoolmate No Joo-hwan's counterpart, Tsukamoto, is a professional acquaintance of Shinichi Goto, and is not introduced to Lee Woo-jin's counterpart, Takaaki Kakinuma until later in the story. Tsukamoto, a bartender, unlike No Joo-hwan, who runs an internet cafe, survives the ordeal.
- Kakinuma, unlike Lee Woo-jin in the film, is not successful in his ruse against Goto; in fact, he is unable to break and ruin Goto and his tactics ultimately fail miserably. The reasons for kidnapping and imprisoning Goto and Oh Dae-su respectively are also completely different: Goto unknowingly shattered Kakinuma's self-esteem and left him emotionally scarred for life by feeling pity for him and openly crying in music class when he realized Kakinuma's loneliness in the manga; Oh Dae-su witnessed Lee Woo-jin's incestuous relationship with his own sister and created a rumor that resulted in Lee Woo-jin's sister suicide. Kakinuma, unlike Lee Woo-jin, has no relatives to speak of.
- Albeit victorious against Kakinuma, Goto is left plagued by hypnotic episodes at the end of the manga which worries him about Eri, who was still vulnerable to hypnotic suggestion, as the hypnotist found her to be mentally locked by Kyoko Kataoka, Kakinuma's "assistant"; Goto does not know to what extent they have been hypnotized or whether there might be any repercussions to the manipulation that could cause them self or mutual harm. On the other hand, Oh Dae-Su is left presumably emotionally crippled and mute and his ultimate fate is left unknown.
- Mr. Han's counterpart is an unnamed "Secret Service" agent that reports directly to Kakinuma and directs his surveillance operations targeting Goto. He later turns against Kakinuma as he finds his harassing of Goto rather pointless.
- Many major and minor characters in the manga do not have a counterpart in the film, such as Yayoi Kusama, Goto and Kakinuma's 6th grade teacher turned novelist, to whom Kakinuma entrapped to document the conflict; Kyoko Kataoka, Kakinuma's "assistant" and lastly, Kakinuma's "Referee".
|Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from Oldboy|
|Soundtrack album by Jo Yeong-wook|
|Released||9 December 2003|
|Label||EMI Music Korea Ltd.|
- Track listing
|1.||"Look Who's Talking" (opening song)||1:41|
|2.||"Somewhere in the Night"||1:29|
|3.||"The Count of Monte Cristo"||2:34|
|5.||"In a Lonely Place" (Oh Dae-su's theme)||3:29|
|8.||"Look Back in Anger"||2:11|
|9.||""Vivaldi" – Four Seasons Concerto Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter)"||3:03|
|10.||"Room at the Top"||1:36|
|11.||"Cries and Whispers" (Lee Woo-jin's theme)||3:32|
|12.||"Out of Sight"||1:00|
|13.||"For Whom the Bell Tolls"||2:45|
|14.||"Out of the Past"||1:25|
|15.||"Breathless" (Lee Woo-jin's theme [reprise])||4:21|
|16.||"The Old Boy" (Oh Dae-su's theme [reprise])||3:44|
|17.||"Dressed to Kill"||2:00|
|20.||"Kiss Me Deadly"||3:57|
|22.||"Farewell, My Lovely" (Lee Woo-jin's theme [reprise])||2:47|
|23.||"The Big Sleep"||1:34|
|24.||"The Last Waltz" (Mi-do's theme)||3:23|
|Choi Min-sik||Sanjay Dutt||Josh Brolin|
|Kang Hye-jung||Lara Dutta||Elizabeth Olsen|
|Yoo Ji-tae||John Abraham||Sharlto Copley|
Controversy over Zinda
Zinda, the Bollywood film directed by writer-director 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."
American film remake
Steven Spielberg originally intended to make a version of the movie starring Will Smith in 2008. He commissioned screenwriter Mark Protosevich to work on the adaptation. Spielberg pulled out of the project in 2009.
- Old Boy (manga)
- East Asian cinema
- Greek tragedy
- List of Korean language films
- List of South Korean films of 2003
- Revenge play
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- Review by Manohla Dargis, New York Times.
- Review by J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader.
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-  "Sympathy for the Old Boy... An Interview with Park Chan Wook" by Choi Aryong
- ": IKONEN : Interview Park Chan Wok Old Boy Lady Vengeance JSA Choi Aryong". Ikonenmagazin.de. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- "그리스비극과 한국영화를 통해 본 가족 - 드라마연구 - 한국드라마학회 : 전자저널 논문". :. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- "〈올드보이〉에 나타난 여섯 개의 이미지 - 문학과영상 - 문학과영상학회 : 전자저널 논문". :. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Korean Movie Reviews for 2003: Save the Green Planet, Memories of Murder, A Tale of Two Sisters, Old Boy, Silmido, and more
- Denis, Fernand (10 January 2005). "La victoire de "Poulpe fiction"". La Libre Belgique (in French). Retrieved 26 October 2012.
- "Awards (2004)". Bergen International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 13 February 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2007.
- "Winners (2004)". The British Independent Film Awards. Archived from the original on 7 April 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2007.
- "All The Awards (2004)". Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original on 30 November 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2007.
- "The Nominations (2004)". The European Film Awards. Archived from the original on 9 December 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2007.
- Oldboy Makers Plan Vengeance on Zinda, TwitchFilm.
- Kate Aurthur (2013-11-30). "Adapting "Oldboy": Its Screenwriter Talks About Twists And Spoilers". Buzzfeed.com. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- "Spike Lee Confirmed to Direct 'Oldboy'". /Film. 2011-07-11.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Oldboy (2003 film)|
- Oldboy at the Internet Movie Database
- Oldboy at the Korean Movie Database
- Oldboy at HanCinema
- Oldboy at AllMovie
- Oldboy at Rotten Tomatoes
- Oldboy at Metacritic
- Oldboy at Box Office Mojo
- The Autobiography of Oldboy on YouTube