"Yes, whilst my main objection is towards the theme of the movie, the plot itself whilst at first intriguing at the end descended into mediocrity and at last pure trash. "
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
I think Old Boy refers to the name given to the students in the school which the main characters attended during their teenage years.
Did You Know
This is the second in the 3 movies with revenge as the theme by famed Korean director, Park Choon Wok? The first was Sympathy For Mr Vengeance which I did not watch and the third was Sympathy For Lady Vengeance starring Lee Young-ae who won best actress in the recent Blue Dragon awards. I saw the 3rd movie. All 3 movies are similar in the sense of the theme being revenge and violence being the main staple diet. All 3 were of course once criticised for senseless violence.
Surname is listed second to given name, a bad habit by the westerners. Too lazy to change them.
Min-sik Choi .... Dae-su Oh
Ji-tae Yu .... Woo-jin Lee
Hye-jeong Kang .... Mi-do
Dae-han Ji .... No Joo-hwan
Dal-su Oh .... Park Cheol-woong
Byeong-ok Kim .... Mr. Han
Seung-Shin Lee .... Yoo Hyung-ja
Jin-seo Yun .... Soo-ah Lee
Dae-yeon Lee .... Beggar
Kwang-rok Oh .... Suicidal Man
Tae-kyung Oh .... Young Dae-su
Yeon-suk Ahn .... Young Woo-jin
Il-han Oo .... Young Joo-hwan
An average man, Oh Dae-su is kidnapped and imprisoned in a room with a TV as his only companion for 15 years without explanation. During those years he found out his wife was murdered and he was the suspect whilst his only baby daughter was adopted by a Swiss couple, thinking her father has run away to avoid arrest. He is then released, equipped with money, a cellphone and expensive clothes. As he strives to explain his imprisonment and get his revenge, he soon finds out that his kidnapper, Lee Woo-jin an affluent man offers to kill himself if Oh Dae-su finds out the why in the imprisonment in 5 days. With the help of a young pretty Sushi chef Mi-do, Oh Dae-su began to unravel some unsettling truths behind the imprisonment and finally had to confront his kidnapper who has something else planned as a big finale which will prove to be Oh Dae-su's biggest nightmare come true.
I was excited to watch this movie since I specially ordered it from yesasia.com which caused me around RM50-00. I knew I had to watch this movie alone since it is probably laden with sex and violence. The latter is true, the former not quite true since there is probably only 2 of such scenes, one not so obvious, one very obvious. The sex scene was nothing much until you finished watching the movie, then in retrospect that very scene made me feel sick to the core.
In fact this entire movie makes me sick. Is the violence senseless? No. It serves a purpose and understandable although some scenes were way too long winded that the effect wears off after a while. There is only so much of violence that can excite me, after that everything else is just plain repetition. The sex scenes were ok but in restrospect only was that scene sickening. The ending muddled and I suspect not a happy ending and in a way a sickening ending. What is sick though is why Oh Dae-su was imprisoned in the first place. The story makes no sense and gives no purpose. If there is a moral to the story, it is lost to me. It is to me a lame justification on the part of Lee Woo-jin to avenge for the untimely death of his beloved sister, Lee Soo-ah, a death which could be prevented if Lee Woo-jin had made an effort not to unzip his pants.
Yes, crudely written perhaps but the entire premise is about unzipping his pants. You see although the theme of this movie is about revenge, the real main theme is very disturbing. But to not make you suffer and watch this sickening movie, I must perhaps reveal why he was suddenly kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years. So please ladies and gentlemen, FULL SPOILERS AHEAD.
Oh Dae-su was drunk one night and suddenly he was kidnapped and imprisoned for specifically 15 years. The reason was because he spread a rumour that Lee Soo-ah, a pretty young girl attending the same school was a slut. This girl in turn because of this rumour apparently committed suicide by jumping into a dam. Lee Woo-jin is her younger brother. The truth was Oh Dae-su met this girl and chatted with her on the playground at the school. He then saw her running into a classrom with a boy chasing after her and so he followed her. Inside the room, Oh saw the boy with the camera basically you know, removing her clothes and kissing her breasts and the girl was very much into it. They saw someone out there and Oh ran away. Oh was due to transfer from the school the next day I think. Before he went away, out of curiosity he asked his best friend, Joo-hwan whether he knew that particular girl. Apparently the girl had a reputation as someone virginal. Of course Oh told Joo-hwan what he saw but he didn't quite know who was the boy. After he left, rumours about her being a slut circulated. What people didn't know was the boy was Woo-jin, her younger brother. They were having full incestous affair culminated in her being pregnant. When Oh found out about the truth as he had simply forgotten the whole classroom seduction scene, he thought Woo-jin pushed his sister so as to cover the truth. The truth was the sister killed herself so as not to bring trouble to her brother and herself and Woo-jin saw his sister and his lover jumped to her death. Woo-jin blamed Oh for spreading lies without first thinking of the consequences. He said Oh "talked too much". Oh wondered too if he talked too much. But that's not the end. When Oh found out the truth, Woo-jin should have killed himself but Woo-jin's final act of revenge was the clincher. He gave Oh a package and in it contained pictures of his baby daughter with her adopted parents and the girl grew up to be Mi-do, the girl who became infatuated with him when he found her at a Sushi bar and the one whom he had sex with earlier. Oh was sickened to the bone and called Mi-do who herself received a package. Oh begged her not to open it and the he went down on his knees and even cut off his own tongue to beg Woo-jin not to reveal to Mi-do the truth. Woo-jin agreed. Why 15 years was because to give Mi-do sufficient time grow up. All along her expenses were financed by Woo-jin. Why Mi-do fell for Oh was because she and Oh was hypnotised and when they see each other, their unconcious mind tells them they're to be in love and Mi-do did all she could to help him whilst he lusted after her. In the end Woo-jin did kill himself, Oh aged many years and wrote to the hypnosis expert to make him forget the awful truth. Whether he actually forgotten the truth or not is debatable as he hugged Mi-do and began crying. Woo-jin last words to Oh was "I knew she was my sister and despite that fact we fell in love and we continue with our relationship. Now that you know Mi-do is you daughter, can you do the same?".
And the moral of the story is? True love reigns despite the incestous stuff? Don't ask questions when seeing a couple doing it in an empty classroom? Don't make assumptions even when the assumptions may not be entirely inaccurate? You get payback a million times fold for making an innocent assumption? Really, what is the point in here?
I can't help but feel disgusted with the story at the end of the day. Disgusted because of the contents, disgusted that an innocent assumption could result in all these tragedy and that Lee Woo-jin thought what he did was right, to ruin the lives of a father and his daughter for such trivial reason. His sister killed herself simply because he unzipped his own pants. Pure and simple. What this BS about true love despite the nature of the relationship is rather idiotic. Morality is out of the window. There are many movies dealing with incestous stuff, but to really justify it the way this movie did is simply well..simply ... sickening.
Technicality wise, remember Oh was framed for the murder of his wife? Later Woo-jin said his case was dismissed. How? Why? There were the glass with his prints, stuff with his prints, although all planted at the scene of the crime but still to the law enforcers these were strong evidence. So how was the case dismissed? Why in the first place put in the plot that he was framed for the crime if the end results is so confusing?
The ending itself was confusing. Oh pleading with the hypnosis expert to help him, the very same hypnosis expert who got paid by Woo-jin to ruin his life. Oh should have stabbed her to death, not plead for help. The real ending itself is also as confusing. It is up to interpretation if the hypnosis worked. I for one would think it didn't work and he lived with the knowledge he slept with his daughter who will never know he was her father, that he loved her as his daughter and as his lover and the way he cried and hugged her, I believe he would follow Woo-jin's advice and that is just so out of the point. Revenge theme? Nahhhh...more like incest theme.
Why do the Koreans love to make movies like this? They do make brilliant movies but when they make controversial movies, the movies are always extremely controversial. Even lighthearted stuff like young teenage brides and their quest for true love is in the very core quite a disgusting theme. Morality seems to be blurred to make way for storytelling but good storytelling? Maybe some yes but for this movie, no is my answer.
Coming back to this movie, the performances itself were in part faultless, in other parts a miscast.
Choi Min-shik was simply brilliant in his performance. He looked so old, so haggard and full of anger and in the end regrets. Every line, every wrinkle, every white strand of hair lend credibility to the suffering his character went through.
Kang Hye-Jeong is pretty. She is supposed to play an 18 year old since Mi-do was 3 when her father disappeared. Anyway a good performance as she embodies the innocence of Mi-do.
The miscast was Yu Ji-tae. If I am not mistaken he is supposed to be same age as Oh. Even if Oh looks haggard for his age, Yu Ji-tae looks way too young to be Woo-jin. And his performance consisted of psychotic type of cold smiles and tears. No middle ground and I would say miscast and poor performance. I can't see the agenda of his character. The movie seems to condone the reasons why he punished Oh which is pure crap.
The rest are forgettable or underused or just walk on roles.
I watched Sympathy For Lady Vengeance first and was impressed with the story and the direction. Old Boy was disappointingly controversial of the nonsensical kind. The story leaves me feeling disgusted for having bought it and watched it. The plot is convulated, the story confusing and the ending whilst up to your interpretation is potentially sickening. The only word I can use is sickening. Disgusting may be suitable also but sickening is the right word. This movie attracted strong criticisms when there was one scene where Oh ate an average size octopus Sushi style and in whole (as in using his teeth to chew). That thing was still alive. Apparently 3 were consumed during the filming. Frankly I have no problem with that. It was the other contents of this movie that made me wonder is this movie smartly controversial or simply dumb controversial.
Watch Sympathy For Lady Vengeance and avoid watching this unless you want to watch a movie with a convulated plot. Yes, whilst my main objection is towards the theme of the movie, the plot itself whilst at first intriguing at the end descended into mediocrity and at last pure trash.