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Review

Revenge film shakes audience

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October 14, 2010

You know that feeling you get when you trip and fall down a flight of stairs, or spectacularly crash on your bicycle, or catch an edge on your snowboard and fly head over heels down the slope of an honest-to-goodness mountain? And you just lay there dazed for a bit before you realize that you’re somehow completely fine? That’s kinda how I felt as I wobbled out of the movie theater last Friday night.

This week’s review is somewhat off the beaten path, as a friend extended an invitation to attend a special screening of the cult classic Korean movie, “Oldboy” at the Uptown Theater this last weekend. “Oldboy,” directed by Chan-wook Park, is a thriller-mystery that takes place in modern day South Korea.

The film follows the story of Oh Dae-Su (Min-Sik Choi), a seemingly hapless middle-aged average Korean-Joe, who is inexplicably kidnapped and locked away in a faux one room apartment with no windows or door, and deprived of human contact for 15 years (apart from a television set, whose news broadcast informs him that he is wanted for the murder of his wife) then released just as mysteriously as he was captured.

He is given a new set of clothes, a fat wad of cash, a cell phone and five days to figure out who has done this to him and why. He sets off on an adventure to track down his captor, discover the truth behind his imprisonment and exacts his own revenge on those who have done him wrong.

The thing that sets “Oldboy” apart from other revenge films like “Machete” or the “Kill Bill” movies (whose plot may seem strikingly similar to one Quentin Tarantino), is that it sets us up to expect the same kind of “high-style violence and danger, all from the comfort of a reclining theater seat” entertainment these other movies provide, but instead, just as you get settled and are about to dig into a bucket of extra butter popcorn or box of sour patch kids, it turns around on you and kicks you square in the groin (or if you’re female, punches you in the boob, which I’m told is quite painful). Don’t get me wrong, it certainly has its share of outlandish blood and action, including one of the best shot fight scenes of the decade and an old-fashioned hands-over-your-eyes “teeth-torture” scene, but actually takes the time to allow you to understand and care for the characters, which is what makes the horrible things that happen to them feel so real.

I was definitely not prepared for how intense a movie I was seeing with my first viewing of Oldboy, and frankly I was too busy deciding whether or not I needed to vomit afterwards to know if I had enjoyed myself or not.

But when I was able to actually think clearly about the film, I couldn’t deny that I had just seen a superbly directed, exceptionally well-acted, fast-paced and totally unpredictable movie that was unlike anything I had ever come across before.

But be warned, “Oldboy” is not a movie for everybody. It’s fun and exciting in its own way, but only if you’re the type of kid who got up after flying head first over your handle bars yelling, “Again, again!”

Anthony Orlando is a math major and physics minor. He runs for the UW-River Falls cross country team. He once met Dan Auerbach and is a minor celebrity in Malaysia.