Oldboy comes in the middle of Park Chan-wook’s “vengeance trilogy”—three unrelated films about the obsessive, destructive pursuit of revenge—but it’s the best of the lot. Park’s insane fable follows a man (Choi Min-sik) imprisoned in a single hideous room for 15 years by an unknown enemy, and then abruptly set free on a bloody mission to track down what just happened to him and why. The results are downright operatic in their violence and outsized drama, but a dark thread of humor runs throughout, in scenes like the bravura, long-take hammer battle (see our best scenes of the decade list) and the moment where Min-sik sets out to determine whether a decade of martial-arts theory alone in an apartment can translate into real-world adeptness against a bunch of bullying punks. Spoiler: It can. If Min-sik wasn’t capable of staggering acts of brutality, this film would be a lot shorter, and a lot less outrageous.
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