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Friday, March 11, 2011

OLDBOY (2004)

Inexplicably freed 15 years after being inexplicably kidnapped, a man seeks out what’s left of his life, the reason behind his imprisonment and revenge against . . . whom? That’s the set up on the middle episode of Chan-wook Park’s ‘revenge trilogy.’ The cult following for this award-winner is easy to understand. The manner & control of Park’s dark violence is often stunningly laid out. (A big set piece in a long hallway where our hero/victim takes on dozens of attackers in a daring lateral tracking shot is a classic piece of kinetic cinema.) And there’s a weirdly likable nature to most of the characters, even the bad guys. A sort of cosmic comic mayhem that keeps you involved. Plus, the taut atmosphere that moves inexorably forward as Park parses his way thru gross-out material well beyond normal bounds. Swallowing a live baby octopus? Using a construction-sized wrench for a bit of tooth pulling torture? Office scissors to hack off a bit of tongue? Park’s your man. If only the story added up or, at least, the big ‘reveal’ at the climax paid off dramatically. We need something to be worth all the bother & bloodshed. His current production brings Park into the mainstream: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman & Mia Wasikowska in STOKER. Impressive; if only it weren’t another vampire pic.

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