Park Chanwook's Oldboy has been hailed by critics as the latest see-it-if-you-dare movie, but I'm not exactly sure why. Yes, there are various outrageous acts, including a man getting his teeth extracted, one at a time, with the claw end of a hammer. And the movie's protagonist, an ordinary businessman named Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-ski), does so much kicking and screaming that you're almost relieved when he snips off his own tongue with a pair of scissors. But there's nothing here we haven't seen before, by one bad-boy director or another. And this particular bad-boy director isn't just sadistically getting his rocks off. Park wants to get to the heart of what it means to seek revenge on somebody, and he's prepared to crack open the rib cage to get the job done.
Luckily, he also administers some shots of laughing gas. Oldboy is, among other things, a comedy ' an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse in which the mouse has no idea who, what or where the cat is. Early on, Dae-su is mysteriously kidnapped and held hostage in a room with only a TV for company. Fifteen years later, he's mysteriously released, having learned he's the prime suspect in the murder of his wife. And the rest of the movie consists of his quest to find out what exactly is happening to him, a journey that's full of surprises, to say the least. By the way, those with weak stomachs may want to look away when Dae-su eats a live octopus. It's his symbolic attempt to turn the tables on the many-tentacled creature that has him in its grip.