South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy consists of three movies connected loosely by theme and some shared casting. All three films dive into the theme of vengeance with Jacobean gusto; all three are filled with extreme content, including incest, dismemberment, rape, murder, suicide. To Park, revenge is not a dish best served cold; rather, it’s a radioactive recipe that poisons the revenge seeker, his or her target, and everyone else within range.
Despite acclaim for the first and third films (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), centerpiece Oldboy is still the film to be reckoned with. Based on a Japanese manga of the same title, Oldboy centers on a man, Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) who’s held hostage for 15 years by an unknown captor, then mysteriously released. He eventually learns that his captivity is only the first stage of an elaborate revenge plot by a man who blames Dae-su for his sister’s suicide and now seeks a perverse kind of poetic justice.
The movie contains a number of celebrated sequences, including a fight in a corridor shot in a single take, and a scene where Dae-su eats a live octopus. (The scene required several takes and four live octopi; since Choi Min-sik is a Buddhist, he said a prayer for each of the creatures before tearing into them.) We’re not sure how Spike Lee’s forthcoming remake, starring Josh Brolin, can possibly compare with the impact of the original, but we’re looking forward to finding out when it’s released on November 27.