Foreign Film Review: Oldboy

Oldboy, Oldboy, Oldboy. Yours is a twisted tale.

Clarence Brown
3 min readNov 18, 2009

Oldboy is a twisted tale. One which can sicken the faint of heart, but brings so much joy to those with passion for a gut-wrenching suspense-filled tale. Oldboy is a winding road of discovery, spattered with action, which eventually brings the protagonist, Dae-su, to the realization that is every bit as disturbing as anything I have ever seen, read, or heard.

Oldboy, a Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook, was released in 2003 and is a loosely based film adaptation of a Japanese manga of the same name.

Oh Dae-su, a Korean businessman, husband, and father finds himself kidnapped and placed in a holding jail that appears to look like a run-down hotel room with no access to the outside world other than a television set. After days of yelling and trying to get someone to give him some sort of explanation, he gives up and begins watching his television. Soon after, he learns that his wife has been murdered and that he is the number one suspect. Days turn into weeks, weeks to months, and months to years. The notion that he has been imprisoned for no apparent reason torments him and he oftentimes loses his sanity. Thinking that at some point he may have the chance to escape from this living hell and ensure revenge on his captors, he trains feverishly. After 15 long years, he is released with no explanation, rhyme, or reason. Dae-su begins a quest to find his captors and figure out the reason why he has been imprisoned for the last fifteen years of his life.

Nothing in Oldboy is taken lightly. The extremeness of the plot and action is the hook. This film will easily have you running the gamut of human emotions. That being said, this movie is also extremely well-paced. I often have problems with most action-suspense movies because they contain way too many dead spots, or don’t offer up enough story to keep me glued. This movie has a great balance of action, suspense, and reveals that will keep you on edge and guessing throughout. Ultimately the story is not as complex as it seems, but the mayhem that is distributed to reveal this perceived complexity is all too appealing.

The only bad thing I can see here is the sickness of the plot. Although this is also one of the movie’s strong points. So I don’t know if I can really say if it’s a bad thing. I will say that most people won’t find the scenarios that this movie reveals socially acceptable. But with most movies, how often do we really find the plot socially acceptable? I can’t really go into a further explanation here, you just really have to see the movie.

All in all, this is a great movie. I absolutely loved it. Because of the plot, I would think that this is not for everyone. But if you love action and have a tooth for good suspense, then this is definitely the movie for you.

Also, there have been rumors of an American-made adaptation of the original Japanese manga for quite some time. Supposedly Steven Spielberg was to head up the project, with Will Smith portraying the role of Dae-su. Seems the US version of the film has been tied up due to legal litigation as explained by AnimeNewsNetwork. Seems the manga publishers and the filmmakers are at odds over selling movie rights. As of right now, the project is reported to be dead.

Originally published at on November 18, 2009.



Clarence Brown

Podcasting and writing mostly about Star Trek. Somewhere in Texas.