We need to address something. Oldboy is a blockbuster, at a time when every film industry had to have an answer to The Matrix. Attempts to pigeonhole South Korea’s output as “arthouse” overlook the broad strokes of Park’s manga adaptation – the loud, thumping, stylised melodrama of a revenge fantasy with a targeted audience. Not only is it violent, bloody fun for the whole family… for every act of hammer-based creativity there’s someone hoping it gets a little more twisted.
This Grand Guignol does little to hide its Western influences, with an opening bordering on outright plagiarism. This in part explains how it has connected with Western audiences, but more so it is a film that exists in more than one type of shadow. What a relief it is to see 100 years of moralising by the Anglophone cinemas collapsed so simply, so delicately.