South Korean emergence as a cinematic story-teller is well exampled by this carefully woven tale of the bizarre and macabre, yet still in context of a mystery thriller rather than taken to the horror genre. That it achieves the intensity of both is won in the appreciation the culture retains of social moray and self-sacrifice to it. In this case, both in incest taboo and in pursuit of vengeance.
Placed in these contexts, Old Boy, is a beautifully told story, even on par with a Shakespearean tragedy. And with an ending equal as well, a surprise one at that. With the acting talent to match superb directing (Chan-woo Park) and an adept adaptation of the Garon Tsuchiya story, even subtitles cannot slow the quick follow of action. If we’re careful we might even pick up on the subtle ironies throughout.
Min-sik Choi is the fate-hapless, Dae-su Oh (referred to in the movie as Oh Dae-su.) Imprisoned for fifteen years without explanation and treated to various mind-control programs, he survives on the impetus that he will one day find his captors and punish them in similar fashion. Only to find out later that the answers to all the intrigue involved may mean more to him.
The lovely Hye-jeong Kang is Mi-do, a young lady strangely thrown into this intrigue with an older man, by all appearances, that seems to be mad. We are amazed at her steadfast concerns and attraction to him, which do appear to somehow flaw the film. But only until this seeming fascination is explained. And quite adequately.
Supporting performances are well done, although character developments tend too much towards the unidimensional. However this does serve to bring more emphasis on the lead roles. Setting, scene shifts and camera work are adequate. Special effects are not of the level expected elsewhere but well dramatized and certainly not less than that of a generation ago.
Too intense for children with some nudity and (probably) pretty strong language (though in Korean.) Highly recommended and an exceptional movie.