Fifteen Years of Imprisonment... Five Days of Vengance

Our Review

*(Note: for this review the R RATED US Tartan Asia Extreme DVD release was used)*

So it all starts with a naked man. Our villain, Woo-jin, played pitch-perfect by Ji-tae Yu, he steps out of a shower bare-assed. Right at the 01:30:12 mark. Please, please, please note the tramp stamp; get a good long look at it. It's drawn right down into his crack. Seriously; it's not just the ladies that rock the L.B.T. nowadays. The lower back tattoo is officially unisex. Like a pair of Converse All Stars or t-shirts. The color pink.

But... I wouldn't say anything like that to Woo-jin's face mind you. He's Woo-jin, after all. A man to be respected. Feared.

Emphasis on fear.

For example, before his shower, at the mere utterance of "sick 'em", two guards in nice suits rush across his penthouse suite to attack our poor, bedraggled protagonist Dae-su Oh (my personal hero, Min-sik Choi). The fight... the bloodshed, only a momentary tactic allowing Woo-jin a second to rinse off before slipping into something a little more comfortable.

Anyway, that's how we get here... wet butt cheeks.

Woo-jin makes his way across the pristine spotlessness of his beautiful penthouse to a custom sci-fi closet which opens into four quadrants. He disappears inside; only his arm visible moving though a rack of shirt and jacket combos. In this shot, as well as the other thousand compositionally beautiful shots that director Chan-wook Park pulls off to make up this film, he frames Dae-su in a full length mirror to the right of the screen as Dae-su divulges the answer to the riddle plaguing him during his five days of vengeance (which I won't spoil for you here in case you're one of the only people who haven't seen this beast of a film).

Emerging from the closet, cheeks sheathed in black underwear, Woo-jin moves to the mirror. The suit up for "Oldboy" is unique, as it spans several minutes of integral plat. At this point, while Woo-jin is looking in the mirror, he begins an exchange of dialogue with Dae-su, during which, for the duration of the scene, the camera jumps to different angles and images. Different places. Different times.

For example, if we watch here, during the dialogue there are a couple seconds of close-up time spent on a Korean painting. Then we’re rushed over to the room Dae-su was held captive in for fifteen years, where Mi-do (Dae-su's girl played by the cutie Hye-jeong Kang) patiently waits, praying. Then we're right next to Woo-jin again. He’s at the closet, pants on, taking a belt and a neatly folded button down shirt from the shelf. He continues to talk smugly; shedding light on Dae-su's mystery in incremental bits; building up to the big reveal, that "prestige" moment, same as the average James Bond/Scooby Doo villain- giving us every little missing detail of the nefarious plot.

In close-up he buttons down the shirt. Latches his belt.

More conversation. Words traded back and forth; protagonist to antagonist. More pretty camera work. What’s cool here is when the shot goes back to the waiting Mi-do, she mimics the Woo-jin suit-up; peeling off her top for the sweater we're shown up close nestled in a suitcase, then sliding it on.

So break-neck back to Woo-jin, as he takes a tie from a drawer. Pops his collar and begins to loop his black silk noose. The scene rockets back to the past as he explains the "how" of the plot, even moving into split screen so we can see him jeer as he adjusts his tie and so Chan-wook Park can pull a really neat camera trick.

The flashback scene wipes George Lucas-style with a drawer being opened. The inside is divided into ten felt lined sections, each containing intricate sets of cuff link and tie-pins. Woo-jin selects a black set and we jump to close ups of his hands and wrists as he sets the cuff links. He soothes out the tie and adds the clip. A moment later, in an overhead shot he exits the sci-fi wardrobe, tossing on his final piece, the suit jacket; and as he does the closet comes together, concealing itself as an avant garde piece of art. Or a Decepticon.

Either one really.

Doesn’t really matter, cause here's where our man goes crazy. Let me re-phrase, here’s where both of them go batshit nuts. For real. The last twenty minutes of "Oldboy" are brutal and insane and fucking beautiful beyond words. If you haven't done so, please see this film. You're doing yourself a disservice if you don't. Catch it before a remake ruins it (if subtitles got you down the US release has a solid English 5.1 audio dub). If you’ve seen it, awesome. If not, then you have to see it. It’s your homework assignment.

Besides, where else can you catch a truly odd suit-up involving wet man-butt?


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