SYTYCR Round 1.15: Spuds Mckenzie VS. Falkor (OLDBOY)

by Nick Jobe · July 31, 2012 · So You Think You Can Review · 25 Comments
Talk about a tight race! This last one was literally a back-and-forth the entire way, right up until the last minutes! But in the end, Henry Swanson came out on top. Congrats! Alright, guys and gals… I don’t have an actual battle for you today. Due to another last-minute drop, I had to send Falkor automatically through to Round 2. But just like the last time this happened, I’m going to post the review anyway. So while there’s no voting, please leave your thoughts and comments below. Also, like last time, there will only be a 1-day wait, so you will get the next battle tomorrow. And… that will actually be the last battle of Round 1! I will announce the identities of all Round 1 Fallen on Friday.
Finally, I have updated the bracket again. Along with some name changes (due to a new contestant or two who replaced drops), I have added the films that will be reviewed in Round 3. So all contestants who made it through to the second round, you can go ahead and look at what you have waiting for you if you win the next round. Click to make the bracket bigger.

Oldboy Review
By Falkor
On the night of his infant daughter’s birthday, Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) finds himself wasted and in prison. After his best friend bails him out, he stops by a pay phone to call his daughter, and gets kidnapped by an unknown assailant. Dae-su is forced to live in a locked ‘hotel’ room for 15 years, not knowing why he is in there and who locked him in. Driven crazy by being alone for so long, he starts to plot his escape. When he is a month away from escaping, he finds himself in a nice suit on the roof of a building, with a cell phone and a wallet full of money. Not knowing why he was let go, who captured him, and why he was there for 15 years, Dae-su embarks on a journey to find the answers to all of these questions, no matter the cost.
Be warned: SPOILERS follow.
I had no idea what this movie was about when I rented it. To me, it looked like an action film set somewhere in Asia, so I was expecting some amazing fighting sequences and a barely-there plot. What I got, instead, were barely-there action sequences and an amazing plot. But did I like the movie? Not really. I’ll explain in a little bit.
When I first put the movie in, it started playing with dubbed over English. I don’t like watching movies like that. I like to watch movies the way they were filmed, and the way that the director wants people to watch the movie. So after about five minutes of watching the English version, I switched it back to Korean and turned on the English subtitles, and started watching the movie the way it was made. I’m glad I did that, because it brought a lot of authenticity to what I was watching. However, this is the first time that I have ever watched an Asian-language movie. Normally when I watch a foreign film, it is Spanish or French – so there are similarities between the language being spoken and English. So I am able to track what is being said without forcing myself to see every single subtitle. There are no similarities between Korean and English, so I found myself really taken out of the experience. I had to continually rewind to read a subtitle that I missed because I was watching what was happening, or to see what the characters were doing because I missed it while reading the subtitles. It’s not a fault of the filmmakers or anything, it just really took me out of the film and consistently reminded me that I was just watching a movie. I like to be immersed in a film, not taken out of it.
Min-sik Choi is a very talented actor. It would have been easy for a lesser actor to really ham up the scenes in the hotel room in which Dae-su was slowly going insane, but Choi brought a silent strength to his scenes that really sold the character. I also thought he did a phenomenal job at the end of the movie, when he was begging his captor to have mercy on him. Dae-su, by the end of the film, is a man pushed to the edge, hanging by a thread and Choi’s performance really sold this progression. However, I didn’t really enjoy the villain of the piece, Woo-jin Lee (Ji-tae Yu). He spends the entire movie hiding in the shadows, which is very effective because it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time trying to figure out who was doing this to Dae-su. But when we finally get to see him, he just sits there and laughs. This man would be a desperately crazy man, given what he has been through in his life, but he is just walking around looking menacing, putting on a nice suit. I didn’t really buy his performance.
This movie is wildly regarded as a master piece. It has won several awards and is currently at 81% at Rotten Tomatoes. However, I really don’t think that it is worth all the hype. Yes, the explanation as to why he was locked up for 15 years caught me by surprise and made sense. But what is the point of this movie? Why did I just spend 2 hours of my life watching it? What can I take away from it? The answer, unfortunately, is nothing. I’m not saying that every movie has to have a higher purpose and a greater meaning. Some movies exist to simply entertain, or make us laugh, or make us cry, or say something about the human condition. But what happened in this movie is so far removed from anything that I will ever experience, that I don’t really see the point it why it exists. I could understand this being a great film if it was what I originally thought it was – an epic revenge movie with awesome action scenes. Then, even if the end result was the same, I would get the point of the film. But it didn’t even have that going for it.

Another way they could have made this movie have more of an impact was if Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang) – Dae-su’s daughter who he is tricked into having sex with – found out that Dae-su was in fact her father, and we got to see the results of this revelation. Would she still want to be with him as a lover? Would she be able to forgive him and herself and start to live as child and parent? This is how this movie could have had more of an impact – the importance of family and how strong familial ties really are. Again, they unfortunately did not explore any of this. The movie ended with Dae-su having his memory erased.

I wanted to like this movie – I really did. But there is just so much that was left untouched that it feels like it isn’t finished. And I can’t shake that feeling.


25 Responses to SYTYCR Round 1.15: Spuds Mckenzie VS. Falkor (OLDBOY)

  1. JayCluitt says:

    …I’ve never been so shocked, nor disagreed so strongly, with a review. Falkor obviously has a penchant for action scenes, yet there’s no mention of the epic side-scrolling hammer fight, one of the greatest combat scenes of all time.
    Also, even with the spoiler warning, I was appalled at to what level the film was spoiled. I didn’t mind the reveal of Dae-Su being released, but the final revelation? Unforgivable.

    • Joel Burman says:

      You spoil more than the review does. The review at least has a spoiler tag. Everyone that reads beyond that point will be spoiled. Jeez…

    • JayCluitt says:

      Fair point. Sorry, I was in a bit of a bad mood when I wrote that (not entirely because of the review). However, who would read the comments without reading the review?

    • Nick says:

      Joel: The only thing Jay said was Dae-Su being released… which is not a spoiler at all. That’s in the logline probably, since that’s the entire point of the movie. He’s held for years, released… boom, figure out why. Nothing he said did I find to be a spoiler in any regard.

      This review DEFINITELY spoils the film to a large degree.

    • Joel Burman says:

      “yet there’s no mention of the epic side-scrolling hammer fight”… Yeah? now there is, thanks for telling me about it Jay.

    • Nick says:

      I can’t tell, Joel, if your comment is actually thanking him for letting you know about an action scene… or being sarcastic and acting like that’s a spoiler. If it’s the latter… it’s not a spoiler. It’s the most famous scene in the movie. People who generally haven’t seen it know about this scene. Hell, the main poster of the movie is Dae-su holding a hammer. And it’s such an amazing scene.

    • Joel Burman says:

      Well I didn’t know it before and now I’ll certainly be sitting and waiting for the side scrolling hammer fight when I see Old Boy.

      Sure it may not be considered to be a spoiler but I went of a tangent seeing some rant about a reviewer revealing stuff in a spoiler tag and then writing specific stuff like this himself.

      Didn’t feel all that creative if you ask me. Also when stuff get hyped up like this I tend to avoid as much as I can of a film so I haven’t seen the Hammer on the poster etc.

    • Nick says:

      Ah… well, there’s a MASSIVE difference between Jay mentioning the hammer scene (which is a widely known scene) and the review talking about what it did. I mean, it’s the difference between saying “Haley Joel Osment sees dead people” and “Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.” One is something everybody knows either from the trailer or just pop culture knowledge. The other ruins the entire movie.

    • JayCluitt says:

      Wow, I didn’t mean to spark an argument guys. Joel, I apologise if I’ve ruined the movie for you at all, but by your logic surely the mention of any particular scene, character or shot could spoil the film in some way for anyone who previously knew nothing about it.

    • Joel Burman says:

      Jay: No worries its the fun part of this discussion. I’d say I over reacted as much as you did by the fact that the reviewer actually had spoilers within his spoiler tagged section.

  2. I cant believe it was your first Asian language film. The fact you had to rewind parts because you couldnt keep up with reading and watching most likely ruined it for you (and would for me if i had to do it). So I don’t really feel you judgement is levelheaded if you were uncomfortable during it.

    Or maybe I’m just a little bias because I liked the film…(?)

  3. Anonymous says:

    “I could understand this being a great film if it was what I originally thought it was – an epic revenge movie with awesome action scenes.”

    That sentence perfectly describes this movie. It doesn’t have a huge quantity of action scenes but the ones they have are amazing in quality. The hallway scene in particular is one of the greatest fighting scenes ever, in my opinion.

    Everyone can react differently to films obviously, so I can see someone not liking Oldboy but some of your reasoning doesn’t match up with the movie that I saw.

    Also, using spoilers in a review can be necessary to make a point, but I think you could have made all of yours without using a spoiler. People who have seen the movie would be able to understand what you were referring to without gratuitous spoilers.

    Your review wasn’t awful by any means, but since I disagree so strongly that makes me more critical. Unfair I know, but I still hope you’ll watch it again when you won’t have as many issues with subtitles.

  4. Too much personal reaction, not enough objective discussion.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I disagree vehemently with this review. I don’t mind when people have negative reviews to great films, but it does bother me when it is negative because the reviewer missed the point and acts like it is the fault of the film.

    I also agree with other comments that say you failed to mention the hallway scene even though you apparently love action.

  6. martinteller says:

    FIRST Asian-language film? Yikes.

    I much prefer Lady Vengeance over Oldboy, but mostly what I get out of this review is that the author needs some more experience watching films with subtitles.

    • Joel Burman says:

      Again riding out in Falkor’s defense he/she apparently don’t watches foreign or subtitled stuff but its not like he/she choose this film.

      I haven’t read the review beyond the spoiler tag but I get a little annoyed by people getting hung up on it being a first viewing of an Asian film…

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not the fact that it’s his/her first Asian film. The first complaint in the review is that there are no English cognates, which somehow makes it easier to follow along with the dialogue? No, it doesn’t. If I can’t follow along with Korean subtitles, there’s no real reason I should be able to with Spanish if I don’t speak either language. So, as far as criticisms go, that makes no sense.

      They went on to say that it’s not the fault of the filmmakers, but it still took them out of the experience. That’s a legit thing that can happen, but it also makes anything they say after that questionable.

  7. Dan says:

    I don’t have an issue with this being the writer’s first Asian film. Even though Falkor didn’t really care for Oldboy, I’m hoping it doesn’t discourage future viewings of Asian movies.

    While I disagree with the ultimate take, my concerns were more with there being a really long paragraph talking about Falkor’s technical experience with the DVD and subtitles. Also, I’m not a fan of when a writer directly responds to Rotten Tomatoes or ratings on another site. It becomes too reactionary for my tastes.

  8. Anonymous says:

    So I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this or not, so sorry if I am breaking the rules. But I’m still being anonymous so hopefully this is okay.

    Wow. I didn’t think my review would get so much backlash. Here’s the thing about how I approach my reviews – I approach it as if I am talking to a friend about a movie we have both seen. So, in the case of “Oldboy” specifically, if I were talking to a friend about that film and we had both seen it, wouldn’t we talk about every aspect of the film?

    Basically, there are two kinds of reviews – reviews for people who haven’t seen the movie yet and are trying to find out if they should see it, and reviews for people who have seen the movie and they want to read what another person’s take on it is. Neither of them is right or wrong, it is all a matter of preference.

    Furthermore, I really do like foreign language films. Some of my all time favorite films are foreign films (“Life is Beautiful,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and more). My issue was that because there are so many similarities between Spanish and English, or Italian and English, or even French and English, I don’t get lost in trying to read the subtitles the entire time. There is no similarity between Asian languages and English. So the subtitles became more of a task than a way to move the story forward.

    And as to the issue of me putting too much personal viewing experience into the review – isn’t that what a review is? A personal experience with something? Wether it is food, or drink, or a play, or a movie?

    All that aside, I really do appreciate all of the feedback. That is why I joined this competition – I want to see what people think of my reviews. So I honestly appreciate every comment. I just really didn’t think I would get such a largely negative response. People are allowed to dislike movies that everyone else likes, right?

    I guess I am pretty lucky that the other person dropped out, because it seems like I wouldn’t have made it to the next round. Hopefully I can surprise y’all next time around.

    • Nick says:

      No, you aren’t breaking any rules since you’re responding anonymously.

    • Anonymous says:

      How much Spanish, Italian, and French do you know? If you know the words for, say, chicken, dog, and piano, how does that help you follow along complex lines of dialogue? I’m not railing on you…I just don’t get this particular argument at all.

    • Dylan says:

      I get the argument. I can’t say that I’ve had issues watching Asian films myself, but I totally get it. I recall being amazed the first time I saw Run Lola Run (one of, if not my first, German films at the time) at how much of it sounded so similar to English – and it’s not even a Romance language. Spanish, French and Italian are all so similar to English (and I took at least two years of school on the first two) that I’m able to get a lot more just by listening than I would be able to for a Korean film.

  9. Bubbawheat says:

    I’ll be the one to say that I wasn’t all that impressed with Oldboy when I first watched it either. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen it, but I don’t remember thinking the action scenes were fantastic. I’m pretty sure I saw the twist coming from about halfway through the movie more or less.

    It was a decent revenge movie, but I didn’t connect to it like so many people who love the movie do either. I didn’t mind the personal problems with watching the movie with subtitles, though I would have suggested giving it a second go around before writing the review so that the movie might have been easier to follow.

  10. Shane says:

    I knew about Old Boy, but I think I laid off the Asian films after Ichi the Killer. Your argument makes me very interested to see this now. Not often that people feel so strongly about a film.

  11. martinteller says:

    I’ll go on record saying I wasn’t that impressed with Oldboy either. The much-lauded “hammer scene” is really over-hyped by some of the film’s fans, IMHO.

    And I don’t think it’s a bad review, I like a personal slant. Just the issues with the subtitles sounds pretty silly to me.

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