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There’s little succour among the little suckers

01 August, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Min-sik Choi and Hye-jeong Kang in Oldboy

Directed by Chan-wook Park
Certificate 18

THERE is a shot in this classic 2003 Korean thriller that sums up the film rather nicely.

Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) is sitting at a sushi bar, being served by a Korean waitress who offers him polite hospitality. He picks up an entire live octopus, and begins to chew his way through the creature. Its tentacles grip his face as its predicament becomes obvious, slime oozes from his mouth, and the poor waitress recoils in horror.

Recoiling in horror could be a common refrain when watching this thriller – from the beginning idea of a man being locked up in a room for 15 years, with absolutely no idea how long his detention will last (he has been kidnapped), through the varying degrees of violence he has inflicted upon himself, and on others.

We meet horrible drunk Dae-su Oh after a night out, which ends in a police waiting room. After being released, he is bundled into a car and wakes up in a hotel room with no windows – just a small serving hatch at the foot of the door where plates can be passed through.

No explanation for his incarceration is given – though the viewer is treated to an unsavoury back story – and we feel his claustrophobia as he sits out his sentence.

Finally he is released, turfed out into the city, and told he has five days to find and punish the person responsible.

This film became a cult classic across the globe, and it’s easy to see why: the approach to violent set pieces draws on the great Hong Kong Kung Fu movies, while the script is something Tarantino would be chuffed to cook up.

Remastered to bring it to a new audience, what a utterly vile, yet delightful, treat this film is.


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