With the recent box office and critical success of neo-noir films like Kill Bill and Sin City, a new audience is gradually being introduced to a style of filmmaking that, while sure to be controversial, could very well be the saving grace of the increasingly dull Hollywood movie machine. These films focus on the dark and disturbing undercurrents of life without sacrificing or compromising the visually graphic nature of the story to appease family audiences or social conservatives.
In the past decade, the burgeoning neo-noir style has spawned countless cult classics in Japan and Korea, each more over-the-top than anything American audiences have not been able to see in theaters. They were unable to see it, that is, until this past week, when the Korean film Oldboy screened as part of the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival.
Oldboy is the story of a Korean family man named Oh Dae-Su and the nearly 16-year detour his life takes after being abducted from outside a police station after a drunken bender on his daughter’s birthday. The plot focuses on Oh Dae-Su’s search for his jailer, the motive behind his imprisonment, and the very violent revenge that stands between Oh Dae-Su and being able to get on with his life once more. The film is the second in director Chan-wook Park’s “Revenge Trilogy” of unrelated films all focusing on the same kind of search for vengeance that American audiences got a taste of last year in director and known Park fan Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films.
While some neo-noir movies of the same style rely on little more than big visual effects and gallons of fake blood to impress their audiences, Oldboy’s biggest shocks come from the great acting and a well-written script providing an emotional involvement to the bloodshed, though first-time viewers of Asian neo-noir will still be alarmed by the amount of violence in the film.
Oldboy has caused such a stir in the film community that plans are quickly coming together for an American remake, similar to that of the treatment given to the Japanese horror films that were remade into The Ring and The Grudge. Rumors are pointing to Nicholas Cage in the role of Oh Dae-Su, and judging by the quality of past remakes, an American Oldboy will be a shell of its Korean predecessor.
While both screenings of the shows sold out, import DVDs of the film are available through online retailers and at the Asian cinema stand on the ground floor of The Gallery. If you have a chance to check out Oldboy, take it, because it’s a great opportunity to see a film at the forefront of an exciting new direction in the way movies are being produced.
Slade Bracey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.