Tag Archives: korean

Oldboy – Review

17 Jan

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the first film in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy, left me wanting more. It was definitely a good movie, but I can’t say that it was a great movie. In 2003, however, audiences were treated to and shocked by Oldboy. Every film student in the world has heard of this movie and I can almost guarantee that any film fanatic has seen this at least once. The first time I saw this movie, I really enjoyed it, but felt like I was missing a lot of the hype. After this second viewing, I understand completely. Oldboy is more than just a thriller. It’s also a mystery, dark comedy, and action film with strong roots in Shakespearean and Grecian tragedies.

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Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is an average Seoul businessman with a wife and daughter, who has believed to have lived a normal life. One night, Oh Dae-su is kidnapped and placed in a room for fifteen years. While in the room, Oh Dae-su changes and becomes psychologically twisted and thirsty for revenge. When he is let out after fifteen years, Oh Dae-su starts his quest for revenge and meets Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), a chef who is willing to help him out, despite her not even knowing anything about him. As the kidnapper is revealed as millionaire Woo-jin Lee (Yoo Ji-tae), the mystery becomes even more intriguing. Instead of who locked Oh Dae-su in a room, he has to figure out why, and the answers may push him to the edge of his sanity.

If you were to take all of the good things from Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, like the excellent blocking, cinematography, and story, and then take away how awful the plotting of that movie is, you still wouldn’t have Oldboy. In order to describe how great Oldboy is you would have to add in a mixture of excellent suspense combined with spot on pacing, and only then would you see how excellent Oldboy is. This is one of those essential pieces of film that everyone should see if they are interested in film. It’s more than just a bloody thriller. It’s a look into the darkest parts of human psychology where revenge and murder are just part of a person’s life.

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This has a very similar artistic style to Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. In terms of set design, this is a dirty looking movie, but once again Park Chan-wook has shown how he has a talent for creating beauty amongst the grime. His lensing in this movie is fantastic, but his interesting use of the camera doesn’t stop there. One scene in particular that stands out is a huge fight scene shot from the side of a corridor that was filmed in one continuous take. It isn’t rare for editors to hide cuts into takes as long as these, but this shot was 100% done in one take. Every shot is composed wonderfully, which once again shows that Park has one of the best eyes in the international film industry.

As great as Oldboy looks, it wouldn’t have worked without Choi Min-sik’s excellent performance. Oh Dae-su is a very complicated character with a lot of ups and downs, and Choi plays it with spot on perfection. There are scenes where he is smiling, but we sense all of the inner pain that is boiling beneath the surface, and other times where his acting shows all of the anger and hate. The climax of the movie, which really shows comparisons between Shakespearean and Grecian tragedies, really highlights Choi’s abilities and is one of the best onscreen performances I have ever seen.

Oldboy is one of the best films ever made, and deserves to be on the same lists as classic films. In its own right, it is a contemporary classic that will go down in film history. It’s a poetic story of violence, love, and revenge that shows a side of humanity that people don’t normally like to see. Choi Min-sik gives an excellent performance, and Park Chan-wook shows his talent as a film maker and story teller. If you haven’t seen this Oldboy, it is your responsibility to see it as quickly as possible.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – Review

13 Jan

This is going to be the start of a review for a trilogy. Chan-Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy to be more specific. Park has established himself as one of the most creative and innovative film makers to come out of Asia, and has even inspired American film makers and film makers from around the globe in terms of style and story. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance started off this thematic trilogy in 2003, and while it is a good start to the three movies that share common themes, it is a relatively weak entry in his filmography.

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Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) is a deaf-mute who is working in a factory so his sister (Ji-eun Lim) can get a kidney transplant. After getting fired and hearing no good news from the hospital, Ryu takes his life savings and turns to the black market to get a kidney. The sellers don’t make good on their deal and end up stealing his kidney without selling him one for his sister. In order to get the money Ryu’s girlfriend, Yeong-mi (Doona Bae) suggest kidnapping his ex-boss’ daughter (Bo-bae Han) and collecting the ransom money. After tragedy strikes, his ex-boss Dong-jin (Kang-ho Song) wants revenge and will stop at nothing to kill the people responsible for ruining his life.

To start off with, I feel let down by this movie. There are a lot of good things about it that I will get to, but as a whole it is clearly inferior to Park’s other work. First of all, there are a lot of things in the beginning of the movie that are glazed over so fast I wasn’t even aware that I was getting any plot information. Because of that, I would get confused further down the line at what was going on and who was who. It wasn’t until about a third of the way into the movie that I was aware of who everyone was and what exactly their motivations were. This is not exactly a fun way to watch a movie.

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The story, itself, of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is pretty awesome. The whole deal with organs, the black market, abductions, and revenge just blend together really well, despite the shortcomings in how the story is told. It’s a grim, dark, and almost depressing story, even though it still shows signs of dark humor that Park is so good at doing. Amidst the violence and suspense, I found myself laughing at certain parts just out of how strange things were. In some cases, right after laughing, I’d find myself cringing or in a state of bewilderment. The violence in this movie can be extreme, but it’s never so graphic or insane that it becomes gratuitous. Still, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not for the feint of heart.

This  is also a beautiful movie to look at. Chan-wook Park has an unbelievable eye when it comes to creating beauty amongst ugliness. The surroundings in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance are very gray and dreary, completely lacking any set or location that is beautiful. What is beautiful is how Park shows these sets and locations. His blocking and camera techniques are spot on and make every scene interesting. I found myself thinking about how he thought to angle some of the more interesting shots and if I would ever be able to think of something like that.

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not Chan-wook Park’s best film. The plot, which is excellent, is not told in the most sensible way and a lot of important points may be missed your first time through. Park said he was going more for theme and style over plot, which shows, but it doesn’t help the movie that much. That being said, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance looks great and fits well in this thematic trilogy. It has memorable scenes, but I still say that it could have been a lot better considering how cool the story is.