Monday, November 01, 2004

Network Error

Chanwook Park's Old Boy (2003) is a Korean revenge thriller with several twists. We first see the central protagonist inebriated and obstreperous in a police station, before his friend comes to collect him, assuring the cops his mate is a nice guy really, just drunk. When the friend makes a phone call to arrange a lift, he turns around to find his companion has disappeared. He has, in fact, been kidnapped and is held captive in a hotel room without any human contact, without knowing why he has been punished and by whom. Then after fifteen years he is suddenly released back into the wide world in an act as seemingly random as his capture. Armed with just a claw-hammer and a pretty damn scary haircut, our anti-hero's mind is set on vengeance, but on falling in love with a young sushi-bar waitress and would-be sidekick, his problems are only just beginning.

Based on a Manga comic-strip, Old Boy certainly isn't for the squeamish or prudish. Imagine David Fincher's The Game minus the cop-out ending or Kill Bill with the pop culture drained out and an unhealthy dose of nihilism injected in its place. It also features a spot of DIY dentistry that makes the equivalent scene in Marathon Man seem like a rudimentary six-month check-up. Throw in a scene where a man eats a huge live octopus down in one and a complex, imaginative but satisfying plot involving hypnosis; self-mutilation and the school ties that bind, and you have a late contender for Film Of The Year. It's a film that just has to be seen to be believed, and an expensive Hollywood remake is surely imminent. My only real criticism would be that the ending is a little too drawn-out - perhaps this Old Boy needed some further time at finishing school? But this minor gripe aside, I'd recommend any broad-minded reader to seek out this surreal, violent thriller which is destined to be regarded as something of a modern classic.


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