A review of ďOldboyĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for extreme violence, sex and nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

 

Crafted as a typical Greek tragedy, this delirious psychological thriller speaks volumes with the questionable aid of excess blood and guts.

At the center of the maelstrom is Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), a mild-mannered husband and father who is inexplicably framed for his wifeís murder and locked in the solitary confinement of a single room for fifteen years.

Fifteen long years of mindless days and nights, of drug-induced sleep and hypnosis. Fifteen long years with only a television to keep him company. On the day that Dae-su finds himself in the middle of a field with little to go on but shadowy memories, one thought is crystal clear.He wants revenge.

But life outside his four-walled confinement is just a bigger prison, one in which Dae-suís faceless persecutor continues to torment him by wrapping him in a spidery web of intrigue and agony.

Only the love of a good woman (Hye-jeong Kang as Mido) and her unerring support gets Dae-su through the day-to-day of seeking permanent closure for countless psychological wounds.Of course you canít find the right answers if youíre asking the wrong questions.

Park Chan-wook knows his cinema; his influences are craftily worked into an elliptical but poetic narrative and stamped with his own brand of cold cruel world.Shades of Peter Greenaway in his The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover phase, and more than a little bit of Hitchcock.

This Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner isnít an easy watch.Dae-suís rocky path to redemption is peppered with scenes of unspeakable torture that bump up against sly suggestions of incest and classic gross-outs such as the consumption of a live octopus.

Parkís carefully crafted chaos is cloaked in gloriously gruesome color alternating with darkly stark images and imaginative hypnotic suggestion. Giant ants ride subway trains with the same composure as Dae-su himself sleeping off the effects of valium gas.

You donít have to a fan of slick and shiny postmodernism (Iím a sucker for it) to appreciate Parkís cool composition and head-scratching symbolism.Just be sure to check your weak stomach at the door.