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Film: Old Boy
"I'm here to put up shelves and kick ass..."

"Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone."

Oldboy is a South Korean movie very loosely based on the Japanese manga of the same name, and is the second and most well-known installment of Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy, which begins with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and ends with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The film also has several parallels to The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as Shout Outs to Titus Andronicus.

Oh Dae-su is an alcoholic businessman with a wife and daughter who is released by the police after a night of drunken misconduct, and then is abruptly kidnapped without a trace. Locked inside a hotel room, completely cut off from the outside world except for a TV, and drugged with knock-out gas every so often, he eventually learns that during his disappearance his wife has been killed, and he has been framed as the murderer. Enraged by his predicament, he finds ways to pass the time, writing his memoirs, training his fists and slowly inching towards his eventual escape.

But days before his long-awaited breakout fifteen years later, he is just as mysteriously released, with nice clothes, money, a cell phone, a severely weakened psyche, a fugitive status and a million unanswered questions. With the help of a female Japanese chef named Mi-do and one of his old computer-geek friends, No Joo-hwan, he tries to piece together the scattered clues of who took his life away from him, cutting down anyone who gets in his path.

An English-language remake was released on November 27, 2013, directed by Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley.

Since this is a movie that has some major twists and surprises, watch out for spoilers.


The film contains examples of:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Perhaps one of the darkest versions in cinema. After learning that he was tricked into having sex with his own daughter, Dae-su breaks down, begging Woo-jin not to reveal this to her. He licks Woo-jin's shoes, promises to be his dog, and even cuts out his own tongue.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Right before Woo-jin commits suicide, we have a tearjerker flashback of when his sister committed suicide. Quentin Tarantino was at the screening and was shocked to find himself crying for a character who had been completely despicable for the prior duration of the movie.
  • Always Save the Girl: Oh Dae-su cuts out his own tongue to ensure he can never let Mi-do know that she is his daughter.
  • And I Must Scream: Oh Dae-su's predicament for fifteen years.
    • And then again, after he cuts out his tongue.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Woo-jin gets his revenge, though he shoots himself in the head almost immediately afterwards.
  • Batman Gambit
  • Berserk Button: Never call Soo-ah a "slut" in front of Woo-jin, as Joo-hwan learns a very hard way.
  • Bound and Gagged
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Woo-jin and his sister.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: An exceedingly rare heroic example: Oh Dae-su accuses Woo-jin of hypnotizing him to forget that he was the initial cause of events that led to Woo-jin's sister's suicide. However:
    Lee Woo-jin: You weren't drugged. You just forgot. It wasn't important to you.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The angel wings for Dae-su's daughter is mentioned at the beginning of the film by Dae-su himself and later on, appears at the film's climax when Mi-do wears it.
  • The Chessmaster: Lee Woo-jin. And as the film picks up speed, he gets faster.
  • Cry for the Devil: Not minutes after Woo-jin destroys Dae-su's life, the film cuts to a flashback of Woo-jin unsuccessfully trying to prevent Soo-ah's suicide, which occurred because of Dae-su's carelessness. To finally rub it in, present-day Woo-jin promptly kills himself.
  • Cycle of Revenge
  • Dawson Casting: Inverted - the actor of Lee Woo-jin, Yoo Ji-tae, was born in 1976, while a scene in which his character is a teenager takes place in 1979.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Woo-jin practically IS this trope.
    • His reason for locking up Dae-su for fifteen years?
    Woo-jin: Oh Dae-su talks too much.
    • Somewhat justified, in that Dae-Su caught Woo-jin having sex with his own sister, then promptly told his friends, who told their friends, etc., all culminating not only in enormous amounts of personal embarrassment for Woo-jin but also in his sister, who he dearly loved, killing herself. Almost everything about his revenge is intended to make Dae-su suffer as he did.
  • Driven to Suicide: Soo-ah, and later Woo-jin.
    • There's also the man with the dog that Dae-su meets after his release who goes through with it anyway. Dae-su also tries to kill himself at least twice during his imprisonment, but his captors stop him.
  • Drop the Hammer
  • Enigmatic Minion: Mr. Han, Woo-jin's silent bodyguard. He gets one line in the whole movie and almost kills Dae-Su before getting shot in the head by his employer.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Woo-jin tells the prison warden not to reveal the Awful Truth to Mi-do.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Dae-su with Joo-hwan, Woo-jin and his sister, Soo-ah.
  • Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: The live octopus-eating scene.
  • Eye Scream: Oh Dae-su stabs one of Woo-jin's henchmen in the eye with a broken toothbrush. We don't see anything gory, though.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Subverted. Woo-jin takes a hot shower and puts on his best suit before going into the lift to calmly commit suicide. But he cries during his memories about Soo-ah, his deceased sister, before shooting himself.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Woo-jin might be pretty charming, but that demeanor actually hides his vengeful self.
  • Fan Disservice: The first time audiences see the sex scene between Dae-Su and Mi-do, it's probably tantalizing. Once they're hit with the revelation of Mi-do being his daughter, the scene is much less appealing in retrospect or upon repeated viewings.
  • Fingore: Mr. Park defects to Dae-su's side after Woo-jin amputates his hand. That's the cover story. In reality Park gave his hand up willingly to gain Dae-su's trust.
  • 555: Averted, as the address - both the street number and PO box - to Dae-su's daughter's foster parents in reality belongs to a hotel in Stockholm.
  • Gainax Ending: It's hard to tell what's real and what's not after Woo-jin's suicide.
  • Gambit Roulette: Woo-jin. So much.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Dae-su, after learning he has been framed for the murder of his wife.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Two occurances: When Dae-su rips out Mr Park's teeth with the fork of a hammer, and when he cuts his own tongue out.
  • He Knows Too Much: Not only was Dae-su locked up by Woo-jin for spreading the rumors about his sister, Soo-ah, being a slut, but he also had his friend, Joo-hwan, who was one of the people responsible for said rumor, killed by Woo-jin.
  • Informed Self Diagnosis
  • Ironic Echo: Played for Laughs:
    Oh Dae-Su: Can the imaginary training of fifteen years be put to use? [successfully defeats several thugs] Apparently, it can.
    [later]
    Oh Dae-Su: Can the imaginary training of fifteen years be put to use? [fought off by a helpless young woman] No. It can't.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
  • The Jailer: Mr. Han.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Quite a few different editions for the film have been released, including various limited editions.
  • Love at First Sight: Deconstructed. Oh Dae-su and Mi-do fall in love with each other nearly instantly because they've been hypnotized to do so as part of the villain's plan.
  • Made of Iron: Dae-su. The man spends years punching a wall until his joints and calluses make his hands into virtual knuckledusters, but that's the least of it. Stabbed, stomped on, beaten with sticks - it all only serves to make him get up and continue pummeling his way through that hallway.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted. Mi-do appears to be one in the beginning, but it later turns out she has similarly been hypnotized.
  • May-December Romance: Oh Dae-su is old enough to be Mi-do's father. In fact, he is her father.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    Suicidal Man/Dae-Su: Even though I'm no better than a beast, don't I have the right to live?
    Cell Poster/Photo Album: Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.
  • Mook Chivalry: Double Subverted, Cheol-woong gang initially fights Oh Dae-su together is a group. The problem the face is that he just won't stay down. The more they throw themselves at him, the more he bashes their heads in with his hammer. Eventually, they become so tired and beaten down, they become reluctant to actually fighting him ,leading to them fighting him one at a time.
  • Mutilation Interrogation: Oh Dae-su tracks down the illegal holding facility where he was kept for 15 years after being kidnapped off the streets. Dae-su asks the warden who paid him to hold him, and when the warden doesn't answer he duct tapes him to his chair. He then uses his claw hammer to pry out the man's teeth one at a time, telling him that he owes him one tooth for each year of his life that was stolen from him. After about 7 or so, he gives the warden a chance to talk, with the implication that he'll continue through with all 15 if he doesn't.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Interestingly, Played for Laughs.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Very Averted. Four real octopuses were used for the eating scene. (Choi Min-sik, a Buddhist in real life, gave a prayer before eating each one.)
  • The Oner: A number of them throughout the film, the most well-known of them being a lengthy scene in which Oh Dae-su takes on over a dozen men armed with just a hammer.
  • Parental Incest
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Dae-su's torture of Mr. Park, though he tortures him only for information on why he was imprisoned.
  • Psychological Horror
  • Punch a Wall: A large part of Oh Dae-su's self-training.
  • The Reveal: Mi-do is Oh Dae-su's daughter.
  • Shaggy Dog Story
  • Shout-Out: To Titus Andronicus including the scene with the tongue, and the father-daughter incest.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Vivaldi's Winter plays while Oh Dae-su rips Mr Park's teeth out.
  • Surprise Incest
  • Token Romance: An irrelevant subplot which is subverted in the case of Oh Dae-su and Mi-do, since it's part of the villain's revenge scheme.
  • Took a Level in Badass: This one is deconstructed too. Fifteen years in a private prison have turned Dae-su into a fearless killing machine, but all of this seems to fit into the villain's plan.
  • The Tooth Hurts: The tooth-pulling scene.
  • Ugly Guy Hot Girlfriend: Oh Dae-su and Mi-do. Justified since Woo-jin hypnotized them into falling in love with each other.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Mi-do, and to a lesser extent Oh Dae-Su.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: This is, rather explicitly, the entire point of the film. Immediately after successfully completing his massive, 15 year Batman Gambit, the Big Bad blows his brains out.
  • Victory Is Boring: Woo-jin; after destroying Dae-Su, Woo-jin states he has nothing to live for now he has his vengeance. He briefly feels joy over exacting his revenge but moments later he returns to being an empty shell mourning the loss of his sister. Cue Woo-jin suddenly blowing his brains out in the elevator.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Woo-jin before his suicide.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Regardless of if it was unintentional, Oh Dae-Su drove a pregnant Soo-ah to suicide by gossiping about her incestuous relationship with her brother.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Or, more accurately, forcibly remove it with a claw-hammer.

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