Director Park Chan-wook's revenge thriller Oldboy is a noted entry in the cinematic canon of Asian Extreme… which is an apt moniker for the genre – and this movie in particular. The plot is extreme: a man is imprisoned in a room for fifteen years without any reason only to be unexpectedly released into a bazaar game of cat and mouse.
The violence and action sequences are extreme: some scenes will make you squirm and, unlike most cinematic combat scenes, the ones here are memorable and pop off the screen – one in particular took seventeen days to perfect and was shot in a single, continuous take. The movie leaves you feeling socked in the gut – and liking it.
It's based on a manga series by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya who, someone along the line, must have been inspired by my favorite sci fi writer, Jack Vance. We were thrilled to see so many of his classic ideas on screen, even if it is just a coincidence (nowhere online can I find any concrete evidence of his influence… perhaps I'm the only pseudo scholar with a dual Vance/Park Chan-wook interest?).
The movie itself falters at the end; as is often the case, the conclusion of a compelling mystery can never be as intriguing as the initial investigation. Still, it's a worthy investment if you crave an action thriller and find that Hollywood just hasn't been delivering.