From Karen Krizanovich, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:
"Mysticism, poetry, school days, and a futuristic bedroom are only some of the wonders found in Oldboy. A thriller that hinges on oedipal taboos and blind destiny, hypnotism, and fate, this breakthrough film - part action, part drama, part psychological thriller - has introduced Korean cinema to more viewers than any other film. The story is more direct and compelling that director Park Chan-wook's popular previous film, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), and features an explosive beginning. A man is imprisoned for fiteen years without an explanation. Upon escape, he must find his kidnapper in only five days.
"This violent, elegiac masterpiece is based on a Japanese manga cartoon by Garon Tsuchiya. Actor Min-sik Choi, who performed his own stunts, trained rigorously for his role as hapless kidnap victim Dae-su, a man who tries to escape his windowless prison by ingeniously digging through a skyscraper wall into thin air but is released before he can try his tunnel. Once free, he vows revenge, Monte Cristo-style, against the kidnapper who has effectively robbed him of his daughter, his wife, and his life. Now a ragged fighting machine who resembles a Korean Charles Bronson in a fright wig, Dae-su is befriended by a beautiful sushi chef (Hye-jeong Kang) whom he engages by eating a live squid and then passing out on the counter. Such is the knockdown, drag-out lifestyle of Oldboy. However complex the tale, it is underpinned by a logic that unfolds clearly, easily incorporating the film's various flashbacks. Progressing at a pace that sometimes leaves one breathless but also leaves room for thought, Oldboy's choreographed fight scenes are both innovative and surprising - and of the violence serves the plot. Despite its brutality, it is ultimately a black comedy that deftly rolls elements of mob thriller and vengeance mystery into one. After winning the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004, the director stunned the audience by thanking the cast and crew, then thanking the four squid who gave up their lives for the vivid sushi bar scene."
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