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Oldboy (2003 film)

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Drama, Mystery, Thriller


Film series


Oldboy (2003 film) movie poster

Release date
21 November 2003 (2003-11-21) (South Korea)15 May 2004 (2004-05-15) (Cannes Film Festival)

Based on
Old Boy by Garon TsuchiyaNobuaki Minegishi

Garon Tsuchiya (story), Nobuaki Minegishi (comic), Chan-wook Park (screenplay), Chun-hyeong Lim (screenplay), Jo-yun Hwang (screenplay), Joon-hyung Lim

Initial release
November 21, 2003 (South Korea)

(Oh Dae-su),
Yoo Ji-Tae
(Lee Woo-jin), (Mi-do), (Mr. Han),
Oh Dal-Su
(Park Cheol-woong),
Ji Dae-Han
(No Joo-Hwan)

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15 years of imprisonment, five days of vengeance

Oldboy official theatrical trailer 1 2013 josh brolin elizabeth olsen movie hd

Oldboy (Hangul올드보이; RR: Oldeuboi; MR: Oldŭboi) is a 2003 South Korean mystery thriller neo-noir film directed by Park Chan-wook. It is based on the Japanese manga of the same name written by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. Oldboy is the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.


Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes

The film follows the story of Oh Dae-su, who is imprisoned in a cell which resembles a hotel room for 15 years without knowing the identity of his captor or his captor's motives. When he is finally released, Dae-su finds himself still trapped in a web of conspiracy and violence. His own quest for vengeance becomes tied in with romance when he falls in love with an attractive young female sushi chef.

Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes

The film won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and high praise from the President of the Jury, director Quentin Tarantino. Critically, the film has been well received in the United States, with an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert stated that Oldboy is a "powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare". It has been listed among the best films of the 2000s in several publications.

Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes

An American remake with the same title was released in 2013. It was directed by Spike Lee.

Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes


Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes

In 1988, a businessman named Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is arrested for drunkenness, missing his daughter's 4th birthday. After his friend Joo-hwan (Ji Dae-han) retrieves him from the police station, they go to a phone booth for Dae-su to call home. While Joo-hwan is talking to Dae-su's wife, Dae-su is kidnapped, and wakes up in a sealed hotel room where food is delivered through a trap-door. By watching the television, Dae-su learns that his wife has been murdered and that he is the prime suspect. Dae-su passes the time shadow-boxing, planning revenge, and attempting to dig a tunnel to escape.

Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes

In 2003, 15 years after he was imprisoned, and just before digging himself to freedom, Dae-su is hypnotized and wakes up on a roof-top with a suit. After interacting with a jumper on the rooftop, Dae-Su tests his fighting skills on a group of young thugs and is mysteriously handed a cell phone and money by a beggar. He receives a taunting phone call from his captor, who refuses to explain the reason for his imprisonment. Later he collapses at a sushi restaurant and is taken in by Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), the restaurant's young chef. After he recovers, Dae-su tries to find his daughter and the location of his prison. He discovers that his daughter was adopted by a Swedish couple, and gives up trying to contact her. Dae-su locates the Chinese restaurant which made food for his prison, and finds the prison by following a delivery man. Apparently it is a private prison where people can pay to have others incarcerated. Dae-su enters the prison and tortures the warden, Mr Park, who doesn't know the identity of Dae-su's captor but reveals that Dae-su was imprisoned for "talking too much." While leaving the prison, Dae-su is attacked by a large number of guards but manages to defeat all of them.

Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes

Dae-su's captor, a wealthy man named Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae), contacts Dae-su again and gives him the following ultimatum: if Dae-su discovers the motive for his imprisonment within 5 days, then Woo-jin will kill himself. Otherwise, Woo-jin will kill Mi-do. As Dae-su and Mi-do become intimate, they have sex. Meanwhile, Joo-hwan tries to contact Dae-su with some important information about Woo-jin's sister, but is murdered by Woo-jin, who was secretly following him. Dae-su eventually recalls that he and Woo-jin had gone to the same high school, and that he had witnessed Woo-jin committing incest with his own sister. After Dae-su told his classmates about the event, Woo-jin's sister committed suicide, leading Woo-jin to hate Dae-su. Back in the present day, Woo-jin cuts off Mr Park's hand, fulfilling an earlier threat by Dae-su, causing Mr Park and his gang to seemingly join forces with Dae-su. Dae-su leaves Mi-do with Mr. Park and leaves to face Woo-jin.

Oldboy (2003 film) movie scenes

At Woo-jin's penthouse, Woo-jin reveals the truth, that Mi-do is Dae-su's daughter. Woo-jin had arranged their meeting by using hypnosis to guide Dae-su into the sushi restaurant, hoping that they would fall in love, so that Dae-su might experience the same pain which Woo-jin had. Dae-su attempts to attack Woo-jin but is beaten badly, until Woo-jin intervenes, killing his own bodyguard. Woo-jin proceeds to threaten to tell the truth to Mi-do, who is being held by Mr. Park in his new prison. Dae-su apologizes for driving Woo-jin's sister to suicide and begs him not to tell Mi-do. When Woo-jin is unimpressed, Dae-su cuts out his own tongue as a symbol of penance. Woo-jin accepts Dae-su's pleading, and tells Mr Park to keep the truth from Mi-do. Woo-jin then boards the elevator, recalls the events of his sister's suicide, and shoots himself in the head with a Derringer pistol. In the aftermath of the event, Dae-su finds the hypnotist from the prison to erase his knowledge of Mi-do being his daughter, so that they can stay together and have a nice relationship. Mi-do then finds Dae-su and embraces him. Dae-su breaks into a wide smile, which is then slowly replaced by a look of pain, bringing into question whether the hypnosis worked.


  • Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su; he has been imprisoned for about 15 years. Choi Min-sik lost and gained weight for his role depending on the filming schedule, trained for six weeks and did most of his stunt work.
  • Yoo Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin: The man behind Oh Dae-su's imprisonment. Park Chan-wook's ideal choice for Woo-jin had been actor Han Suk-kyu, who previously played a rival to Choi Min-sik in Shiri and No. 3. Choi then suggested Yoo Ji-tae for the role, despite Park thinking him too young for the part.
  • Kang Hye-jung as Mi-do: Dae-su's love interest.
  • Ji Dae-han as No Joo-hwan: Dae-su's friend and the owner of an internet café.
  • Kim Byeong-ok as Mr. Han: Bodyguard of Woo-jin.
  • Oh Tae-kyung as young Dae-su
  • Ahn Yeon-seok as young Woo-jin
  • Woo Il-han as young Joo-hwan
  • Yoon Jin-seo as Lee Soo-ah, Woo-jin's sister.
  • Oh Dal-su as Park Cheol-woong, the private prison's manager.
  • Production

    The corridor fight scene took seventeen takes in three days to perfect and was one continuous take; there was no editing of any sort except for the knife that was stabbed in Oh Dae-su's back, which was computer-generated imagery.

    Other computer-generated imagery in the film includes the ant coming out of Dae-su's arm (according to the making-of on the DVD the whole arm was CGI) and the ants crawling over him afterwards. The octopus being eaten alive was not computer-generated; four were used during the making of this scene. Actor Choi Min-sik, a Buddhist, said a prayer for each one. The eating of squirming octopuses (called san-nakji (산낙지) in Korean) as a delicacy exists in East Asia, although it is usually killed and cut, not eaten whole and alive. Usually, it is the nerve activity in the octopus' tentacles makes the pieces still squirming posthumously on the plate when served. When asked in DVD commentary if he felt sorry for Choi, director Park Chan-wook stated he felt more sorry for the octopus.

    The final scene's snowy landscape was filmed in New Zealand. The ending is deliberately ambiguous, and the audience is left with several questions: specifically, how much time has passed, if Dae-Su's meeting with the hypnotist really took place, whether he successfully lost the knowledge of Mi-do's identity, and whether he will continue his relationship with Mi-do. In an interview with Park (included with the European release of the film), he says that the ambiguous ending was deliberate and intended to generate discussion; it is completely up to each individual viewer to interpret what isn't shown.

    Critical response

    Oldboy received generally positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 80% based on 133 reviews with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's consensus is "Violent and definitely not for the squeamish, Park Chan-Wook's visceral Oldboy is a strange, powerful tale of revenge." Metacritic gives the film an average score of 74 out of 100, based on 31 reviews.

    Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars. Ebert remarked: "We are so accustomed to 'thrillers' that exist only as machines for creating diversion that it's a shock to find a movie in which the action, however violent, makes a statement and has a purpose." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying that it "isn't for everyone, but it offers a breath of fresh air to anyone gasping on the fumes of too many traditional Hollywood thrillers."

    Stephanie Zacharek of praised the film, calling it "anguished, beautiful, and desperately alive" and "a dazzling work of pop-culture artistry." Peter Bradshaw gave it 5/5 stars, commenting that this is the first time in which he could actually identify with a small live octopus. Bradshaw summarizes his review by referring to Oldboy as "cinema that holds an edge of cold steel to your throat." David Dylan Thomas points out that rather than simply trying to "gross us out", Oldboy is "much more interested in playing with the conventions of the revenge fantasy and taking us on a very entertaining ride to places that, conceptually, we might not want to go." Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave Oldboy a score of "B-", calling it "a bloody and brutal revenge film immersed in madness and directed with operatic intensity," but felt that the questions raised by the film are "lost in the battering assault of lovingly crafted brutality."

    MovieGazette lists 10 features on its "It's Got" list for Oldboy and summarizes its review of Oldboy by saying, "Forget ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Man on Fire’ – this mesmerising revenger’s tragicomedy shows just how far-reaching the tentacles of mad vengeance can be." MovieGazette also comments that it "needs to be seen to be believed." Jamie Russell of the BBC movie review calls it a "sadistic masterpiece that confirms Korea's current status as producer of some of the world's most exciting cinema." Manohla Dargis of the New York Times gave a lukewarm review, saying that "there is not much to think about here, outside of the choreographed mayhem." J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader was also not impressed, saying that "there's a lot less here than meets the eye."

    In 2008, Oldboy was placed 64th on an Empire list of the top 500 movies of all time. The same year, voters on CNN named it one of the ten best Asian films ever made. It was ranked #18 in the same magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010. In a 2016 BBC poll, critics voted the film the 30th greatest since 2000.

    Oedipus the King inspiration

    Chan-wook stated that he named the main character Oh Daesu "to remind the viewer of Oedipus." In one of the film's iconic shots, Yoo Ji-tae, who played Woo-jin, strikes an extraordinary yoga pose. Park Chan-wook said he designed this pose to convey "the image of Apollo." It was Apollo's prophecy that revealed Oedipus' fate in Sophocles' Oedipus the King. The link to Oedipus Rex is only a minor element in most English-language criticism of the movie, while Koreans have made it a central theme. Sung Hee Kim wrote "Family seen through Greek tragedy and Korean movie – Oedipus the King and Old Boy." Kim Kyungae offers a different analysis, with Dae-su and Woo-jin both representing Oedipus. Besides the theme of unknown incest revealed, Oedipus gouges his eyes out to avoid seeing a world that despises his truth, while Oh Dae-su cuts out his tongue to avoid revealing the truth to his world. More parallels with Greek tragedy include the fact that Lee Woo-jin looks relatively young compared to Oh Dae-su when they are supposed to be contemporaries at school, which suggests that Lee is just like an immortal Greek god whereas Oh Dae-su is like an aged mortal. The incest scene between Lee Woo-jin and his sister is also very striking, given that Greek gods were renowned for their incestuous license (e.g. Zeus and Hera), and the way Oh Dae-Su peeps into the window and witnesses the incest has an ethereal feel to it, as if he were a mortal in the aether (divine realm of Greek gods) trespassing the boundaries between gods and men, which is a classic act of hubris in Greek tragedy. One could also mention Mido, who throughout the movie is portrayed as a strong-willed girl, which is not too far from Sophocles' portrayal of Antigone, Oedipus' daughter. Another interesting character is the hypnotist, who, apart from being able to hypnotise people, also has the power to make people fall in love (e.g. Oh and Mido), which is characteristic of the power of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

    Box office performance

    In South Korea, the film was seen by 3,260,000 filmgoers and it ranks fifth place for the highest-grossing film of 2003.

    It grossed a total of US$14,980,005 worldwide.


    Nearly all the music cues that are composed by Shim Hyeon-jeong, Lee Ji-soo and Choi Seung-hyun are titled after films, many of them film noirs.

    Track listing

    Controversy over Zinda

    Zinda, the Bollywood film directed by writer-director Sanjay Gupta, also bears a striking resemblance to Oldboy but is not an officially sanctioned remake. It was reported in 2005 that Zinda was under investigation for violation of copyright. A spokesman for Show East, the distributor of Oldboy, said, "If we find out there's indeed a strong similarity between the two, it looks like we'll have to talk with our lawyers."

    American film remake

    Steven Spielberg originally intended to make a version of the movie starring Will Smith in 2008. He commissioned screenwriter Mark Protosevich to work on the adaptation. Spielberg pulled out of the project in 2009.

    An American remake directed by Spike Lee was released on 27 November 2013.

    Oldboy trailer


    Oldboy (2003 film) Wikipedia
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