Oldboy (2003 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Park Chan-wook|
|Produced by||Im Seung-yong
|Screenplay by||Hwang Jo-yoon
|Based on||Old Boy
by Garon Tsuchiya
|Music by||Jo Yeong-wook|
|Editing by||Kim Sang-beom|
|Distributed by||Show East|
|Running time||120 minutes|
Oldboy (Hangul: 올드보이; RR: Oldeuboi; MR: Oldŭboi) is a 2003 South Korean mystery thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook. It is based loosely 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 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 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 81% "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.
Businessman Oh Dae-su is kidnapped the night of his young daughter's birthday and placed in solitary confinement in a hotel-like prison. Confined with no human contact or explanation for his kidnapping, Dae-Su soon learns through news reports his wife has been murdered, and he is the prime suspect. Years pass with him in confinement, and Dae-su passes the time shadowboxing, planning revenge, and secretly attempting to tunnel out of his cell; after exactly fifteen years of confinement, Dae-su is released without explanation on a rooftop.
Receiving a phone call from his captor and later collapsing at a sushi restaurant, Dae-su is taken in by Mi-do, the restaurant's young chef. After Dae-su tries to sexually assault Mi-do, she confides that she reciprocates his attraction to her, and states she will have sex with him when she is ready. After discovering his daughter has been adopted in Stockholm, a man communicating with Mi-do via instant messaging recognizes and taunts Dae-su; recalling the dumplings he ate daily while imprisoned, Dae-su tracks down the restaurant that makes them and follows a delivery moped to his captors. Discovering he was held in a private prison where people can pay to have others incarcerated, Dae-su tortures the owner Mr. Park for answers; he then finds out he was imprisoned for "talking too much", and fights his way out of the building.
Located by his IP address, Woo-jin Lee reveals himself as Dae-su's kidnapper, approaches Dae-su and gives him an ultimatum: discovering his motives in five days will result in Woo-jin killing himself, but failing will result in Mi-do's death. As Dae-su and Mi-do grow emotionally intimate, the two make love. Dae-su discovers he and Woo-jin attended the same high school, and remembers spying on Woo-jin's incestuous relationship with his sister, Soo-ah. Unaware of the familial ties, he inadvertently spread a rumor 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 Woo-jin.
Arriving at Woo-jin's penthouse, Dae-su admits he accidentally drove Soo-ah to suicide. Without admitting his own fault, Woo-jin then reveals that he has been controlling Dae-su's actions; by giving Dae-su a photo album, Woo-jin imparts that Mi-do is actually Dae-su's lost daughter, and that he orchestrated events through a hypnotist to make them fall in love and commit incest. A horrified Dae-su, now aware that Mr. Park is still working for Woo-jin, begs the latter to conceal the secret from Mi-do, grovelling for forgiveness before slicing out his own tongue as a symbol of his silence. Asking Mr. Park to spare Mi-do from the truth, Woo-jin leaves in an elevator, only to relive his sister's death and shoot himself.
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 quickly 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 somewhere around 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 Dae-su (young)
- Ahn Yeon-seok as Woo-jin (young)
- Woo Il-han as Joo-hwan (young)
- Yoon Jin-seo as Lee Soo-ah, Woo-jin's sister.
- Oh Dal-su as Park Cheol-woong, the private prison's manager.
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. It should also be noted that 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 is unshown.
Critical reception 
Oldboy received generally positive reviews from Western critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 81% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 128 reviews. The critical consensus is "Violent and definitely not for the squeamish, Park Chan-Wook's visceral Oldboy is a strange, powerful tale of revenge."  Metacritic reported the film had 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 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." 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."
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 stars (out of 5), commenting that this is the first movie 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."
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." 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.
Box office performance 
It grossed a total of US$14,980,005 worldwide.
Awards and nominations 
- 57th Cannes Film Festival
- Grand Bell Awards – South Korea 2004
- Blue Dragon Film Awards
- 2005 Hong Kong Film Awards
- Won: Best Asian Film
- 2004 Korean Film Awards
- Won: Best Film
- Won: Best Actor – Choi Min-sik
- Won: Best Director – Park Chan-wook
- Won: Best Music – Jo Yeong-wook
- Nomination: Best Actress - Kang Hye-jung
- Nomination: Best Supporting Actress - Yoon Jin-seo
- Nomination: Best Cinematography - Jeong Jeong-hun
- Nomination: Best Art Direction - Ryu Seong-hee
- Nomination: Best Editing - Kim Sang-beom
- Nomination: Best Sound
- Asia Pacific Film Festival 2004
- 37th Festival Internacional de Cinema de Catalunya – Sitges 2004
- Won: Maria Award (Best Film)
- Won: José Luis Guarner Award (Critics' Best Film)
- Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics 2005
- Won: Grand Prix
- Bergen International Film Festival 2004
- Won: Audience Award
- British Independent Film Awards 2004
- Won: Best Foreign Independent Film
- European Film Awards 2004
- Nominated: Screen International Award
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 Sinichi 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.|
Nearly all the music cues composed by Shim Hyeon-jeong, Lee Ji-soo and Choi Seung-hyeon are titled after films, many of them film noirs.
Track listing 
- "Look Who's Talking" (Opening song)
- Somewhere in the Night
- The Count of Monte Cristo – A novel by Alexandre Dumas, adapted many times to film
- Jailhouse Rock
- In a Lonely Place
- It's Alive
- The Searchers
- Look Back in Anger
- "Vivaldi" – Four Seasons Concerto Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter)
- Room at the Top
- "Cries and Whispers (Woo-Jin's theme)"
- Out of Sight
- For Whom the Bell Tolls
- Out of the Past
- "The Old Boy" (Dae-Su's theme)
- Dressed to Kill
- Kiss Me Deadly
- Point Blank
- Farewell, My Lovely (Lee Woo-Jin's theme)
- The Big Sleep
- The Last Waltz (Mi-do's theme)
Home media 
A three-disc collector's edition has also been released, featuring:
- Three audio commentary tracks with the director, cinematographer, and cast
- Five behind-the-scenes documentaries
- Deleted scenes
- The first issue of the manga that the film is based upon.
- Interviews with the cast and crew
- A featurette titled: "Le Grand Prix at Cannes"
- A three-and-a-half hour making-of documentary entitled The Autobiography of Oldboy
Oldboy has also been released on Blu-ray.
Other adaptations 
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 
See also 
- Old Boy (manga)
- Revenge play
- Greek tragedy
- List of South Korean films of 2003
- List of Korean language films
- East Asian cinema
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- Reviewed by Jamie Russell Updated 8 October 2004 (2004-10-08). "Films - Old Boy". BBC. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Review by Manohla Dargis, New York Times.
- Review by J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader.
- "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema". Empire.
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- "Oldboy (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
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- "Grand Bell Awards, South Korea (2004)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "Asia-Pacific Film Festival (2004)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival (2004)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- 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 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "Winners (2004)". The British Independent Film Awards. Archived from the original on 2007-04-07. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "The Nominations (2004)". The European Film Awards. Archived from the original on 2006-12-09. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- "asiaextremefilms.com". asiaextremefilms.com. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
- Oldboy Makers Plan Vengeance on Zinda, TwitchFilm.
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- Oldboy at the Internet Movie Database
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|Grand Prix, Cannes