Experiments on a Love Rat

This peculiar Korean film follows a loony drunkard named Dae Su (Min-Sik Choi), who is abducted one rainy night and wakes up imprisoned in a motel-like room. There, he is armed with a TV set and a set of journals to combat a beefy combo of boredom and mental instability. Fifteen years later, he is inexplicably released and Dae Su wastes no time to exact revenge. With help of a young sushi waitress (Hye-jeong Kang), he goes on a bloody mission to track down his notoriously suave abductor (Ji-tae Yoo), who might know more about Dae Su than Dae Su knows himself.

To me, “Oldboy” had the look of a flick lacking substance. Why else would it be shady in plotting, very loud in style, and much too eager to shock, if it weren’t making up for something? At times, it even plays out like Fear Factor when it serves very raw images that are hard to swallow. (And here I thought I’d been numbed by too much violence in the movies). Whether this is good or bad, it is definitely an experience. I had more gripes about the indigestible plot, because it jumps from one unlikely scenario to another. And I repeatedly questioned the abductor, because it seemed like another character that would only exist in the movies. Haven’t seen we seen these film villains where they design an elaborate obstacle course for the hero to follow through?

But, somehow, as absurd and scheming the story is, it redeems itself on a revealing third act, which contains the best ending I’ve seen all year. I was floored to find this fantastical film bears a weight of realism and sheds a light on the darkness of the human soul. But as much as I was impressed, I couldn’t get over the feeling that I felt disconnected for most of the movie. Hopefully, the upcoming American remake, from the team of the brilliant “Better Luck Tomorrow,” would rely more on the strength of the story and keep the characters more grounded.

Grade: B+

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