(Now that winter is here in Chicago, I am doing a lot more reading and movie-watching, and a lot less bicycling and other exercise; among other things, it means a lot more genre projects I've taken on purely for pleasure, and other projects I don't feel like sitting down and writing a full review concerning. Hence this series of mini-reviews, none of which are longer than a couple of hundred words. To see the full combined list of all mini-reviews [books and movies], click here.)
Oldboy (movie; 2003)
Written by Garon Tsuchiya (script) and Nobuaki Minegishi (original comic)
Directed by Chan-wook Park
This is one of those kinds of movies I only occasionally take chances on, not regularly; Asian, extreme, experimental, a kooky favorite of a nutjob like Quentin Tarantino (who as much as I respect, rarely share opinions with regarding what makes for a good artistic project). A product of South Korea's art-film industry, Oldboy posits an odd mystery at the center of the plot, with a story that unwinds slowly based off it; it's the story of loudmouth alcoholic Dae-su Oh, who one night is mysteriously kidnapped and held in a private jail cell for 15 years, then just as mysteriously released in the middle of Seoul one day with a new suit and a wallet full of cash. Through a convoluted plot, then, we learn that Dae-su has exactly five days to discover who it was that kidnapped him, and why; the story unfolds from there in the same kind of complicated and cutting-edge way such American art-films as Memento.
It's a decent-enough story, with some twists that will be legitimately surprising no matter who you are, and it definitely helps if you enjoy seeing shots of backstreet South Korea that seem exotic and romantic to your Western eyes; but the movie also has some legitimate problems, ones that didn't bother me so much but really annoyed the hell out of a lot of people at the IMDb (for example). And then there's the sickening amount of graphic violence, which brings up what I think is an intriguing question; that if you put together a smart and challenging movie like what Oldboy ultimately is, do you in fact do damage to your own movie by inserting needlessly bloody scenes that are simply too violent for a lot of your viewers to handle, prompting them to leave the theatre or hit stop on their DVD player before actually finishing? I do wonder that sometimes myself with a growing amount of movies out there that have been coming out recently; if maybe these movies are doing themselves a disfavor by including so much unwatchably graphic violence. The movie is definitely not for everyone; some people, though, will definitely groove on the intensely imaginative storyline on display, as well as the innovative imagery.
Out of 10: 8.4