Sunday, November 08, 2009

Old Boy: Grade B

Old Boy (2003)
Min-sik Choi, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji-tae Yu; Director Chan-wook Park. (Korean, subtitled)

A middle aged man (Choi) is imprisoned in a windowless hotel room and he does not know why. Food appears under the door, and each day the room is filled with gas that puts him to sleep while the staff cleans the room. Predictably, he goes nuts, but he recovers (more or less) upon release without explanation or context after fifteen years.

He meets a sympathetic waitress (Kang) and develops a relationship with her, but he is consumed by desire to know what happened and for revenge on his captor (Yu), who he discovers through careful research. There are many twists and turns and a surprising ending.

The film is beautifully photographed, well directed, and the music is outstanding. The picture is extremely stylish and good-looking. It is also drenched in blood. Tartan Films (Tarantino’s outfit) “presents” the movie, so you should know what to expect. I just fast forwarded past the most violent scenes.

Acting is outstanding by Choi and Kang and it is fun to get a glimpse into Korean culture. A sense of modern, urban, existential alienation comes through although the ultimate theme of the story is fairly pedestrian, not as shocking to an American audience as the actors’ reactions suggest. I recommend it on the basis of excellent filmmaking.

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