Our story opens with a montage of Korean businessman Oh Dae-su being various stages of drunken asshole while he waits in a police station. A friend picks him up and they call Dae-su's family from a payphone, but when the friend goes to put Dae-su back on the phone, he's gone.
Without one word of explanation, Dae-su spends the next fifteen years imprisoned in a reasonably comfortable room with a TV. Periodically the room is gassed so it can be cleaned and he can be groomed. One year into his stay he sees on the news that his wife has been killed and that he is the prime suspect. He begins to train himself as a machine of revenge, and plans his escape...
And then one day he wakes up inside a trunk, and when he opens it he's outside. Free. With a few clues provided him, this radically changed man sets out on a quest for answers.
Oldboy is a raw scraping at the dark recesses of the human soul, dressed in the brutal, sappy, weird, funny trappings that are contemporary Korean film noir. Or so is my uninformed take on a foreign genre I don't know that much about.
Nothing I can say will convey the flavor as much as the clip below, in which Dae-su takes on a hallway of henchmen. Give yourself three minutes and check it out, somewhere you can hear the drunken, sad-jazzy music.
The clip is biddy-safe, but there's a couple of scenes in the movie entire that definitely cross the line. Nevertheless, Oldboy is fantastic in its style, its narrative twists and turns, and in its underlying evil. There is so much more in it then you've read here, and I highly recommend it. I only dinged it the full five stars because it's not exactly my brand of exotic cheese.