Today, while laid up fighting off a bad cold, I finally sat down and watched the much-ballyhooed OLD BOY, a film I bought on DVD several months ago on the gushing recommendation of a friend whose taste in cinema I rather respect. He explained the basic setup without divulging the major details and I must admit that it sounded great, so when I could I purchased it and sat on it until I could spare the two hours to immerse myself in a two hour subtitled thriller that demanded one’s absolute attention.
The months passed while I waited to see OLD BOY and literally every single review for it that I read or heard from those who saw it was positively glowing. Well, now that I have seen the flick for myself I am once again forced to conclude that since most of the Westerners I know do not watch much Asian cinema, they are easily swayed by the stylistic trickery, “out there” plots, and graphic sex and violence that are all several degrees more severe than anything to be found in the States or the UK at the local multiplex or Cocksucker, er, Blockbuster Video outlet.
At this point let me warn you that if you intend to continue past this point on this post I will be revealing all of the twists in OLD BOY, so proceed at your own risk.
So just what the fuck is OLD BOY about? It tells the story of a guy (Min-Sik Choi) who buys a present for his daughter’s third birthday and gets busted for public drunkenness. Once a friend bails him out and they get out onto the street, the protagonist is inexplicably kidnapped and taken to a cell that looks rather like your standard room at a Motel 6 and imprisoned there for fifteen years. He is fed through a slot in the door, gassed nightly to ensure sleep, groomed regularly while in a gassed state of unconsciousness, trains in fisticuffs against a foe drawn on the wall, and keeps up to date with world events via the kindly-provided TV set in his room. One day he is released onto an inner city rooftop and he immediately sets about figuring out just what the hell happened to him. He learns that his wife is dead — supposedly murdered by him — and that his daughter has been raised in Sweden, so now all he wants is revenge on those who locked him up. He soon is brought home to live with a cute young sushi chef — whom he immediately tries to rape while she’s on the toilet — and the two slowly piece together the puzzle with the help of a mysterious cell phone that places the former prisoner in touch with his tormentor. Much violence and weirdness ensues, including a scene where a guy’s teeth are removed one-by-one with the business end of a claw hammer, and eventually the hero has sex with the virginal sushi chef, who has come to love him over a period of about a week.
At one point the bad guy gives the hero a deadline of five days to figure out the whole story and when he does here’s what we learn: both the bad guy and the hero were classmates in 1979 and the hero discovered the bad guy’s incestuous relationship with his sister, a bit of info that made the rounds of the school’s rumor mill starting on the day that hero transferred to another school. The sister’s reputation as a slut is thus established, and rather than deal with the fact that she was pregnant by her brother, she supposedly convinced herself that her period stopped and her belly began to swell because she believed the rumors, and committed suicide with the help of her brother. The brother, now rich as all hell through no explained means, grew up and waited until the hero had a family of his own and had him kidnapped. He then secretly raised the hero’s daughter and had both of them hypnotized so that various plot points could be set into rather contrived motion, all leading down the path to unknowing incestuous love. Once the hero finds out about this he begs the villain not to tell his daughter what has happened, agreeing to literally become the bad guy’s dog — yipping and barking in a pathetic imitation of man’s best friend — and alarmingly cutting out his own tongue, the tongue that spread the story about the bad guy’s sister (the hero suddenly and inexplicably blames himself for all of the misfortune in the film). The villain agrees to keep the hero’s daughter in the dark about having fucked her own father, and then shoots himself in the head with a derringer since he now no longer has anything to live for (???). The story then skips ahead to find the hero now tongueless and in touch with the woman who had hypnotized him and his daughter; she hypnotizes him again so that his “bad” side, which knows the whole sordid truth of the story, dies while he otherwise lives on with his daughter as his doting lover. THE END.
I’m sorry, but, while visually interesting, OLD BOY is one of the most overly contrived loads of allegedly clever cinematic bullshit that I have ever sat through. I hope that I have saved you the two hours that were stolen from my life by this film, and as soon as my next day off rolls around I will trade the DVD in for something that I will really enjoy and watch more than the one viewing that a gimmick movie like this requires. For more opinions that echo mine, go to the entry for OLD BOY on the Internet Movie Database and click on the “user comments” section. TRUST YOUR BUNCHE!