"Annoying and Abhorrent"
What You Need To Know:
The basic setup is clever, but OLDBOY often moves too slowly. Worse, the movie descends into a maelstrom of violence, revenge and immorality. In fact, the key to the mystery turns out to be incest, and the movie assaults the audience with two graphic scenes of incestuous sex acts. If that weren’t enough to disgust a person, the movie also contains pointless scenes of cruelty and violence that aren’t even cathartic. All of this makes OLDBOY one of the most abhorrent and annoying movies of the year.
(PaPaPa, LLL, VVV, SSS, NN, AA, DD, MMM) Very strong pagan worldview incompetently directed; 42 obscenities, including a few “f” words, and man eats live octopus; very strong violence includes man fights off gang of men with hatchet and punching and kicking but gets stabbed in back, man tortures gang leader by pulling two teeth, gang leader later tries to pull out man’s tooth, severed hand shown, man’s body hits car after he jumps off building, distraught girl jumps off bridge to commit suicide, man strangled, man shoots himself in head, woman tied up and threatened, and man stabbed in head; strong themes of incest include brother fondles sister’s breast and depicted fornication also turns out to have been incest; upper female nudity and rear male nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking and man is drugged; and, kidnapping rebuked, forced hypnotic suggestions, strong themes of revenge not really rebuked, man framed for murder, gangster agrees to let his hand be cut off in return for new building, gossip results in suicide, and resolution of conflict is deliberately obscure, dark and pretentiously mysterious.
OLDBOY is an acclaimed South Korean thriller that has an intriguing plot setup, but that ultimately fails the audience in more ways than one.
In the story, a drunken lout named Dae-su gets bailed out of jail by a friend. Outside the jail, the friend turns his back to talk to Dae-su’s wife on the phone. When he turns around again, Dae-su has completely disappeared.
Viewers soon learn that Dae-su has been kidnapped and placed alone in a small apartment, with only a TV for company. Dae-su is clearly being watched. About one year later, Dae-su learns that his wife has been murdered, and he is the suspect because his mysterious captors have drugged him and placed his blood at the crime scene.
Fifteen years later, Dae-su is just as mysteriously released. On the street, a homeless man suddenly slips him a cell phone and a wallet with money. Dae-su enters a restaurant, where he recognizes the pretty young female chef, Mido, who has a cooking show on TV. During their talk, the cell phone rings and a taunting voice on the other end challenges Dae-su to wreck vengeance on the nemesis who imprisoned him. Dae-su hangs up, orders a live octopus, but while eating it live, he passes out, and Mido takes him to her place.
Dae-su persuades Mido to pretend to be a reporter so she can ask questions about his young daughter’s whereabouts. He finds out his young daughter has been adopted by some people in Sweden, of all places.
With help from Mido and his old friend from the beginning of the story, Dae-su finally discovers the man behind his captivity, but getting the truth out of him proves to be a violent, difficult and emotionally terrifying process. His nemesis, Woo-jin, finally gives him five days to discover why he imprisoned Dae-su. If Dae-su succeeds, Woo-jin will kill himself; if not, Woo-jin will kill the pretty young waitress who Dae-su loves.
The basic setup of OLDBOY is clever, but the movie often moves much too slowly. Worse, the movie descends into a maelstrom of violence, revenge and immorality. In fact, the key to the mystery turns out to be incest, and the movie assaults the audience with two graphic scenes of incestuous sex acts. If that weren’t enough to disgust a person, the movie also contains pointless scenes of cruelty and violence that aren’t even cathartic. All of this makes OLDBOY one of the most abhorrent movies of the year. No wonder so many secular, politically correct movie critics, like Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool, like this movie. (In fact, the movie won an award at the Cannes Film Festival.)
Even if, however, the movie’s immoral content doesn’t turn you off, the film’s lack of aesthetic judgment should. OLDBOY keeps dragging on and on, even in the beginning when it’s trying to establish Dae-su’s character before his imprisonment and when it’s trying to show the excruciating length of his long imprisonment. A really good film editor should have taken an axe to this material, including the director’s pretentious style. The fact that so many apparently intelligent film critics can’t recognize these things does not bode well for the profession. Thus, OLDBOY wears out its welcome frequently, and the resolution of its plot of incest is rather unsatisfying as well as morally disgusting.
This reviewer enjoys seeing a clever, exciting, suspenseful thriller, even if it doesn’t have a particularly strong Christian worldview, but OLDBOY ain’t it. We’d like to give it at least two stars for the clever plot setup and the performances, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. The movie is just too annoying and abhorrent.