Sunday, June 03, 2007


Revenge movie of the week:

Let's face it. I don't care how forgiving you think you may be, everybody loves to see revenge being had.

I know I'm right. If somebody has been horribly wronged, you just feel - I don't know - a little uneasy until they are avenged. It has to do with our sense of fairness and justice. This is an emotion that is uniquely human, and has been around since the beginning of time.

Revenge movies tap into that human emotion and can often give you a real sense of satisfaction (Kill Bill, Les Diaboliques, The Count of Monte Cristo). C'mon, you know you love this stuff. Don't tell me you're above all that. That's like saying you're above - oh, I don't know - breathing? In the movies, revenge is simple and satisfying, and the bad guy always gets his in the end, and then we all feel better about life. Justice is served.

But in real life, revenge is never that simple. In real life, revenge is never satisfying. In real life, if you've been horribly wronged, no amount of vengeance will ever make you feel better - even if you were to crush your tormentor to a slimy pulp with your bare hands then put him back together, and then do it again. The wrong-doer is not always the bad guy - and revenge is not always justified.

No filmmaker has ever depicted the subtle consequences of vengeance as successfully as Korean director, Chan-wook Park. This week's film, OLDBOY, is the second installment in what has become known as the Korean Vengeance Trilogy (BTW: They are independent stories and can be viewed in any order) along with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance & Lady Vengeance.

Dae-su Oh is a young man who is abducted off the street one night and taken captive. He is placed in a small room and held without any human contact, other than a TV set, and without explanation - for 15 years. He is told that his wife and young daughter have been killed and that no one is left to look for him. He endures psychological torture - he has no idea why any of this is happening to him. After 15 years he is suddenly released. He is told that he has just 5 days to find who is responsible for his captivity and to exact his revenge - and, oh boy, is he going to get it! But first, he has to unravel the mystery and find his identity.

Five days and a body trail later, the mystery is solved - but who is getting revenge on who? You want very much for there to be closure - for the bad guy to "get it - and get it but good!" But the lines are blurred. This is genius film making.

This film is not for everyone. Certainly not for the squeamish. It goes for the throat. It's violent and intense, and it doesn't dumb down the violence or soften the intensity for mass audience. It doesn't give a hoot about the MPAA rating (those rat bas****ds!). It has plot twists galore, and it's in Korean with the appropriate subtitles. Revenge is achieved at the end and you'll say, "Damn!" But as I've said, revenge isn't always sweet. So - the following warnings apply.

  1. Damn!
  2. There's a twist that comes near the end, where information is revealed that sheds light on the full nature of the revenge. Many many people will be offended by this.
  3. Damn!
  4. Asian filmmakers aren't as afraid to break old taboos as their American or European counterparts, so be forewarned.
  5. Dae-su Oh (the main character) is royally pissed off. It ain't going to be pretty.
  6. This film is violent. The violence is not stylized or comic-book-like (although the screenplay was based of a comic book). It is gritty and raw and realistic. If this is going to bother you, watch some kind of penguin movie instead.
  7. I forgot what I was going to say for #7.
  8. If you're looking for a film to show for your church group - this would be an excellent choice! .....................................................nah, Just kidding.
  9. Not for your children - unless they've been bad.
  10. Damn!
The numbers:
Scores an 81% on the tomatometer.
Makes it into the IMDB top 250 at #120 between Cool Hand Luke and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
MPAA rating: R for .........well, everything.

OLDBOY - oh boy!


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