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STUDIO: TLA Releasing
RUNNING TIME: 120 Minutes
• Trailer for Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
• Deleted Scenes
It’s a bitch when writing a review for a release of a film you love proves tricky. Oldboy is such a review for several reasons. 1) Devin did an amazing job of officially reviewing the theatrical release earlier this year. 2) Although the film hasn’t been widely seen by the general public, it has been widely seen, both officially and in bootleg and import form, by the vast majority of CHUD’s readership. Devin, Dave Davis, and many others have rightfully sung its praises. Finally, 3) For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s better that you know as little as possible about the plot going in. With those constraints in mind, along with me taking way too long to finish this, “tricky” doesn’t quite cover the writing of this review of the UMD release of this film.
Enough of the bitching, tho. On with critical yammering….
Oldboy, before anything else, is a revenge flick, but it’s much more than that. It’s as tragic as you could possibly imagine, and yet stuffed full of black comedy both in the writing and in the performance of its lead character, Oh Daesu (Choi Min-Sik). The film begins with a wasted and rather ordinary-seeming Oh having his name called in a police station. Shortly after leaving to return home to his family, he’s kidnapped and locked in an odd, rather dorm-like prison with nothing but a TV as his cellmate for the next 15 years. At a certain point, he’s simply released (albeit as a very different man), and he sets about trying to piece together what happened to his life and why.
That’s all you would ever want or need to know going in. Beyond that, things get dicey because talking about the rest of the film, even in an abstract or thematic way, would be unfair in preparing you for things that you shouldn’t be prepared for in the least. What’s just as dicey as this sort of talk usually gears people up to look for a huge, surprise twist, meaning that they go into the film not as simple viewers but rather as detectives which is the worst possible way to watch this film. Oldboy more than holds up on repeat viewings once you’ve learned fully of the plot details, mind you. But the sheer impact of a first viewing coupled with coming to terms with the multi-layered textural, thematic, and tonal beauty is a beautiful thing that you really don’t want to be robbed of. Trust me.
Just know that every aspect of the film, from the score to the cinematography to the acting, is incredibly well-done and appealing on different levels to different types of people. I’ve seen the odd review from mags like Entertainment Weekly that seems to write it off due to the extremity of the plot and certain scenes, but there’s nothing in this film that strikes me as anything resembling a flaw, in the objective sense. You’ll want to watch it completely several times with friends who haven’t seen it for the bounty of discussion it’ll generate. You’ll want to boot up the disc just to skip to a scene or two of amazingly cool as eye-candy. You’ll want to have this in UMD form simply to keep it around you at all times. And hell….if nothing else, this is one of the hallmark titles that – in UMD or DVD form – adds credibility to any collection. I’m sure plenty of you reading this are already among the converts, but if you aren’t, what the high holy fuck are you waiting for already?
9.4 out of 10
Being that the Sony PSP is like a mini-HDTV in terms of image quality, you’d expect this rather slickly-filmed treat to make the transition well, and it does. I was especially impressed with the shadow detail given the dark visual palette of the movie. At no point did I think there were corners cut for the UMD transfer of this film. It appears to be on par with the DVD.
9.0 out of 10
Dialogue and score are represented with crystal clarity, however, I thought the overall volume of the film was very low. I’m used to turning the PSP down from full volume when playing a game like Midnight Club 3 or Lumines even in settings with a good bit of background noise. But even sitting alone in a hotel room with a TV on at moderate volume a room away, I thought Oldboy was too quiet, even at full volume.
Whatever you do, do NOT even dream of trying to watch this in its entirety without the PSP headphones. The PSP speakers make the volume and clarity mentioned above a lot worse.
7.0 out of 10
You get a decent trailer for Oldboy director Chan Wook-Park’s previous film in his “revenge” trilogy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. There are also a few “deleted” scenes that are really just alternate takes of existing scenes with one exception. Nothing to shout about.
6.0 out of 10
Bizarrely, we got nothing with our review disc. Not even artwork on the disc itself. Just a blank case and a visually blank disc. So…your guess is as good as mine. I assume it’s just a clone of the DVD, which was just a reproduction of the theatrical poster, which was rather nice.
0.0 out of 10