Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great Assbeatings In Movie History: Oldboy (2003)

To refer to Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) as one stubborn son of a bitch would be an understatement, but can you blame him for how feels or acts? The poor guy spent fifteen years imprisoned in a hotel room with his thoughts spiraling between feelings of suicide and unbridled hate.

Now that he's free, someone has gotta pay. Unfortunately for Oh Dae-su, he will learn shortly that sometimes the pursuit of the truth is far more satisfying than the learning of the truth.

You won't find too many Asian Film afficiandos that don't consider 2003's Oldboy to be Park Chan-wook's magnum opus. It is a mind-blowing and soul-crushing tour de force that hits home on many levels: emotional, visual and philosophical.

I think Robert Ebert said it best when he commented that, "[Oldboy] is a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare."

Park's middle entry of the beloved Vengence trilogy is a triumph in more ways that one; the least of which is the absolutely brilliant fight scene nested smack dab behind one of the more visceral scenes of torture that won't allow you to look at a claw hammer the same way twice ever again.

The best thing about this wonderful shellacking isn't the fact that it single-handedly paved the way for Oh's eternal place in the Bad Ass Hall of Fame.

The best thing about this scene is these four minutes of beautiful mayhem were shot in only one take! Talk about having faith in your acting staff and stunt team!

It is this trust, dedication to his vision, and sense of reckless abandon that mark Chan-wook as one of the finest directors in the business and perhaps one of the most talented of all time.


Matt-suzaka said...

I think what is great about that fight scene is it's the moment when you really know that you are dealing with a master filmmaker, who has made a masterpiece. Everything up to, and afterwards, is incredible, but the hallway fight scene is almost like a standstill moment in time, where the only thing one can do, is gawk.

Doug Tilley said...

What I love about the hallway fight - and I'm coming at this from a position of love, since Oldboy was my #1 film of the 2000s - is that it's really just a great big gag. I mean, it's a serious moment but handled with a light touch... and when it starts to go and go and go and you realize what is happening your eyes just start to widen. It's beautiful, and then there's a double payoff! First with the elevator opening and showing the new set of enemies (very videogame like) and then having the elevator arrive and all of them slump out, which is bad-ass in a really cartoonish way, but it doesn't detract from the tone at all. This is obviously a director who doesn't give a fuck, and is creating in a way that is so fresh and risky that it honestly left me stunned.