Fans of Daredevil may find that Oldboy is just as stylish, although far more intense. More realistic and unforgiving in his storytelling, director Park Chan-wook delivers a graphic hard-hitting action-thriller.
The second installment in The Vengeance Trilogy, Oldboy primarily focuses on revenge, with elements of romance. Park occasionally presents moments of black humor, although these moments lessen as the film fully embraces its serious tone. Combined with neo-noir style cinematography and thrilling fight scenes, Oldboy becomes a daunting tale of vengeance and atonement.
We follow Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), a drunken businessman who is kidnapped and locked in a prison-like hotel room. 15 years later he is suddenly released, although his desire for vengeance compels him to pursue his captors. Park’s retelling of the original manga which the film is based on is far more violent and lurid. As the motivations for antagonist Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae) come to light, as well as his unexplained connection to Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), Dae-su becomes increasingly desperate to discover the truth. This culminates in a dramatic show of humiliation and disgrace, as Dae-su begs for forgiveness.
Choi Min-sik delivers a convincing performance as both a drunk businessman without regard, and a seasoned warrior in search of answers. In the film’s most recognizable sequence Min-sik is like Daredevil, single-handedly confronting a hallway filled with thugs and even walking away with a single knife implanted in his back. Yoo Ji-tae presents the interesting dynamic of a cold, calculating captor, and a man tormented by his past.
Having since worked on films such as It and Zombieland: Double Tap, cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon is a known master at creating a convincing environment. He manages to capture the claustrophobic tone of the hotel-like prison, and later does a great job showcasing the film noir aesthetic. Utilizing a combination of steady close-ups, shaky action shots and strange camera angles, Chung creates a sense of instability shared with Dae-su. The score, handled by Jo Young-wuk, creates an ambiance that invokes a constant sense of tragedy. This is a nice touch given that the film plot was partially inspired by the tragic hero Oedipus.
Having enjoyed Daredevil long before watching this film, I was pleasantly surprised by the work of Chan-wook Park. For those vengeful for the announcement of another Daredevil series, Oldboy may be the answer.
Frankie Dauphin is a modern day film buff. That means he owns Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.