The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Oldboy

I sure wasn’t laughing at this one. An import from South Korea, this is a tragic shock/mystery/thriller riding the thin edge of depravity. It’s one of those movies you can’t give away too much about, as the tension and intrigue of discovering what’s going on are central to the film. Suffice it to say that the main character is wronged by a seemingly capricious tormentor for a long period of time. Why? He doesn’t have any idea. Nothing is asked of him. It’s not torture for the sake of getting information, there doesn’t seem to be a revenge motive, there is no communication at all. Just a showing of superiority and control over the poor guy. Then the character gets free and starts his personal vendetta of discovery and vengeance against whomever it was that controlled him. But is he free even yet? And whom can he trust in his battle?

The movie has its sadistic violent scenes. But it’s not a slasher flick where the point is to build gruesome body counts. It’s mainly a cat and mouse psychological thriller and mystery where the violence demonstrates that the stakes are brutally high. There is a true payoff and the mystery is revealed at the end. You won’t figure it out ahead of time. You aren’t meant to. There are no clues for you to play detective. Just the same sense of bewilderment and gradual understanding that the main character has. You see the world through his eyes.

I was a bit puzzled by the very end of the film. After the shocking reveal and climax of the chase, there is a wrap up that is ambiguous and I can’t tell if we are left on a sad, a happy, or a bittersweet note. I just know that I felt vaguely depressed and off kilter when the movie was over.

Production values are very high. It’s a full-budget film. The Korean DTS surround sound track is well recorded and the music is quite effective and lovely at times. The subtitles were clear and easy to follow. No mangled English there. You can watch the film with a dubbed English voice track if you prefer (I didn’t try it).

Recommended for those with the stomach to take it. I found it remarkably inventive and original in concept. The kids shouldn’t be anywhere within sight or sound of the TV when you watch this. There is graphic violence, bloodshed, death, partial nudity, and sexual situations.

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