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A classic, Oldboy follows Oh Dae-Su who, after being imprisoned for fifteen years, discovers he now only has five days to find his captor. A shocking and stylish Korean revenge thriller.

Revenge is a dish best served alive. 20 years on from the original release, the iconic South Korean film Oldboy has been restored, remastered, and re-released in theatres – cleaning up over $1 million in the US alone.

Is director Park Chan-wook’s critically acclaimed revenger thriller just as shocking and stylish as it was back in 2003?

What Is Oldboy About?

Loosely based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Oldboy sees drunken businessman Oh Dae-su abducted and imprisoned in a faux hotel room for 15 years (leaving behind a wife and daughter) with no idea why or by whom.

Driven to the brink of madness, he uses the time to train his body in readiness for escape.

But when freedom comes and his revenge takes hold, he will find that he is more a puppet on a string than he can even comprehend.

Chan-wook wastes no time setting up the tone of his nasty writhing movie.

After a brief drunk tank sequence to introduce us to the pathetic Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) we spend the next 10 minutes in style as his sudden imprisonment stretches on and on and on.

We are put through the same mental wringer as Dae-su, so that when he eventually stands free 15 years later we are as poised for answers as he is.

Oldboy Official Trailer

Is Oldboy Worth Watching?

Even after 20 years Oldboy packs a significant punch. You can see the influence that the infamous corridor fight scene, all performed in one shot, continues to have (hello Daredevil?).

Such is the iconic nature of this scene people may mistakenly slot Oldboy into one of many stylish Asian punch ‘em up films.

For most of the runtime Park Chan-wook deploys energetic camera shots and an ever increasing sense of oppression to never let you feel settled.

Despite his freedom, Dae-su never really seems to be free. His meeting with young sushi chef Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung) in which he ‘wants to eat a living thing’ (another still shocking scene in which actor Min-sik eats a live octopus for real) sets the scene of an unlikely partnership.

And yet a phone call using the same music as played during his captivity shows that Dae-su cannot escape the forces that manipulate him.

Park Chan-wook dolls out information slowly so that revelations come to both characters and audience simultaneously.

The paranoia settles over Dae-su like a cloak yet skilfully the plot never quite bends in the way you’d expect; just because this is a revenger movie don’t presume to understand the nature of revenge.

From a scene setting start, a coercive and winding middle, and ambiguous ending, Oldboy remains a powerful film.

The re-release is a great excuse for those in the know to chew it all over again. For those who haven’t seen it, strap on your wings and prepare to flap.

Words by Mike Record

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  • Choi Min-sik Is Outstanding
  • Plot That Wrongfoots You
  • Still Shocking
  • Stylish


  • Drags A Little In The Last 30 Minutes
  • Not For The Faint Hearted


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