Film, Go To

GO TO: Oldboy (2003) dir. Park Chan-wook

New 4K restoration @ Kendall & Coolidge!


Park Chan-wook’s brilliant, twisted tale is terror unlike any revenge flick ever made. Revenge, when envisioned, is supposed to be cathartic, like a beautiful culmination of one’s wildest, angriest fantasies converging into endless triumph and the joy of success. Oldboy proves otherwise.

When Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-Sik) is imprisoned for 15 years, he has no idea why. His solitude and decreasing grip on reality should be punishment enough, but when he is suddenly released, his quest for revenge against his captors proves even more treacherous and disturbing.

The jaw-dropping, flawless reveal of his captor, businessman Lee Woo-Jin (Yoo Ji-Tae), imprisoning Dae-su for spreading gossip about ​​Woo-jin’s incestuous relationship with his sister, is made more sickening by how Woo-Jin’s two decade-long revenge plot has only ruined his life further, his moment of supposed salvation providing no feelings of triumph or joy. His evil is an unrelenting contagion, as Park paints a portrait of a bleak, hopeless world.

The treachery in Oldboy never lets up, with each reveal more shocking than the last. Park peels layers and layers of trauma and grief, and human emotions contorted until they are unrecognizable. Woo-jin’s emotional rot spreads viciously to Dae-su, the two enclosed in a glass cage above the city, the sickening cycle of revenge and trauma only deepening the wounds for both.

Park Chan-wook’s framing is cold and visceral, alienating both characters in the violent exploits of revenge. Every corner of this narrative is unwelcoming and inescapable, emphasizing this hopelessness and pain, pain that isn’t transferable no matter how deliberate, violent, and evil the vengeance is.

Oldboy’s ambiguity is not just in its chilling final shot; it runs through all the vengeance and evil in the narrative, examining the pure worst of human nature, in both physical violence and psychological torment beyond anything a rational mind could think up. There are few films as unrelenting and dark as Oldboy, and even fewer depictions of revenge like this. It removes the cinematic veneer put on the concept, like it is a delicacy to be served cold or a sexy subversion of expectations. Instead, revenge is eternal suffering with no hope of release, a false god of catharsis, promising freedom and returning with only continued pain.

Oldboy’s disturbing narrative is truly timeless. The dark originality is bound to traumatize generation after generation, and the re-release of the 20th anniversary remaster is sure to invite more innocent, revenge fantasy-filled minds to tarnish and rot.

dir. Park Chan-wook
119 min.

New 4k restoration!
Opens Wednesday, 8/16 @ Kendall Square Cinema and Friday, 8/18 @ Coolidge Corner Theatre

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