The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Old boy, new tricks: Park’s 2005 Korean thriller gets three-disc collector’s edition

Brian Doxtader | Thursday, November 16, 2006

Park Chan-wook’s “Oldeuboi” (“Oldboy”), which was already released on DVD back in 2005, has been given the Collector’s Edition treatment by Tartan video. The Korean film, already a cult classic, has increased in stature over the years, thanks in no small part to the original Tartan DVD release.

Nominally, “Oldboy” is a revenge story, but a bizarre and warped one, filled with violent twists and unexpected narrative shifts. Its basic plot involves Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), a man who is locked up by unseen forces for 15 years without knowing why. After his release, he sets off to discover who imprisoned him and why, only to discover a strange conspiracy involving his past.

Park infuses “Oldboy” with a lightning-fast rhythm, which makes the film fly through its two-hour run-time. Audiences are riveted as the mystery unfolds, but Park is smart enough to make the journey as strange and satisfying as the ultimate destination.

Park’s film is violent and often disturbing, but the director gets to the heart of his story, giving it a surprising emotional weight for a film of this type. There are several intense, relentless action sequences, all of which are well done – most notably, a long tracking shot in which Oh Dae-Su fights several cronies in an alley. Choi Min-sik gives an amazing performance as the protagonist, especially in one infamous and shockingly effective scene in which… well, let’s just say that animals were definitely harmed in the making of this movie.

Tartan has gone the whole nine yards in its presentation of the new three-disc Collector’s Edition of “Oldboy.” There are a host of special features that are spread across the discs, though most of them are housed on the second. The picture has been cleaned up from the previous DVD and looks much improved, with better contrast and significantly clearer image quality.

The audio is available in several mixes – 6.1 DTS-ES and 5.1 Dolby Digital Korean mixes, and a 5.1 English dubbed version. The 6.1 DTS-ES is easily the best of the mixes for those who have the proper equipment, as the sound in the action sequences practically jump out of the speakers. The English dubbed version should be avoided at all costs, as the dubbing is not particularly great, and the sound mix takes a noticeable hit in atmosphere. There are English subtitles available, which, while not perfect, are pretty good in their translations.

The cream of the special features include commentaries from the director, cinematographer and cast, and several excellent “behind the scenes” documentaries. There are also 10 deleted scenes with commentary, a featurette, a video diary from the movie shoot and (in a nice touch) the original Japanese graphic novel on which the film is based (translated into English).

Most of the features are informative and interesting, though the third disc, which contains the video diary, is a bit much. “Oldboy” comes in a cool metallic tin, with a presentation that resembles HBO’s “Band of Brothers” in its look and cover, which is a bit strange considering the huge differences in content.

“Oldboy” is a unique and bizarre film, and it represents a new peak in Korean cinema. While only a year old, it indicates a new and interesting direction for Park, who continues to outdo himself with every picture. Although Tartan’s original DVD was decent enough, the new three-disc collector’s edition is essential for any fan of Park, “Oldboy” or Korean cinema in general.