Thursday, September 16th, 2004
Far Too Young To Feel So Old
A man is kidnapped off the street, locked in a room for fifteen years with no word of explanation, is then released with a cellphone and a wad of cash and encouraged to find out who’s responsible and seek his revenge.
That is how Old Boy was sold to me, and it’s technically an accurate description… for the first 30 minutes or so, at least. After that, all bets are off. I admit I had expected something quirky or maybe comedically violent like a Tarantino film, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It veers from whodunnit (though the who is revealed fairly early – the real question is the why) to twisted romance to psychodrama to brutal actioner (there is a single shot fight sequence where former prisoner Dae-su Oh fights his way through a hallway of assailants armed only with a hammer – it’s as far from slick as you can get but completely riveting), but never loses sight of the target – revenge, revenge, revenge.
Sadly, I really can’t reveal any more of the plot for fear of ruining it for you – sufficed to say that even when you think you’ve got it figured out, you really don’t. The climax was one of the most intense cinematic experiences I’ve had in a long, long time – it just builds and builds until you almost can’t take it anymore, but you can’t look away. I think the key to the film’s effectiveness is that as outrageous as the plot seems to become, it never crosses the line into unbelievability so the viewer isn’t granted the luxury of detaching themselves from the experience. It’s a gut-wrenching film with some stellar performances from Choi Min-shik as the vengeful Dae-su and Ji-tae Yu as his icy tormenter.
This was a film that could only have come from overseas – there’s no way in Hell Hollywood could even have conceived of such a plot let alone had the guts to try and make it. Strongly recommended, but not for the weak of heart or stomach – this is an extreme, intense and bloody movie. The violence is crude and the physical toll it all takes on the characters pales in comparison to the emotional one. When it was over I had to sit there for a little while just to decompress. You’ve been warned. Old Boy is actually over a year old – there was no one associated with the film at the screening, or at least none was announced. I don’t know if it will get any sort of theatrical release on this continent but you can probably get it on Korean DVD anywhere with little trouble.
So after films three nights in a row, I’m actually thankful I have a night off tonight from the Film Festival. I’ve been out six nights straight, and while tonight is sort of a night off (still have band practice), I’m getting right back into it with films Friday and Saturday. All this moviegoing is hard work!
NOW gives Arcade Fire’s Funeral a five-star review. That’s a perfect score from both Toronto weeklies, if you’re keeping score (eye reviewed it last week). I’m curious what the aggregate Metacritic review score will be. And a note for all the lollygaggers – their show at Lee’s on the 1st of October is sold out.
Ted Leo will make his third Toronto appearance of the year December 5, but this time he’s graduated from the ‘Shoe to the much posher Mod Club. Good on you, Ted! Tickets are $12 advance. It’s had to believe that earlier this year I was afraid he’d never come back to our fair town… The relentless touring machine will be pushing Shake The Sheets, out October 19. Dear Ted, BRING SOME MERCH THIS TIME! Love, Frank.
np – Steve Earle / The Revolution Starts… Now