IF YOU’VE SEEN “OLD BOY,” SHUT YOUR MOUTH—OR GO TO HELL!By Logan Crow
There’s a special bungalow in Hell reserved for people who spoil movies—a wholly miserable place, void of hope, grace and light. It’s not a hard-and-fast judgment. Clemency can sometimes be granted to those who flip open their bright cell phones in a dark theater: perhaps to take an urgent text from the babysitter, perhaps to check the time to make sure one hasn’t missed their insulin shot … although certainly not because someone—like the person who ruined a screening for me last Saturday—just absolutely has to get in a game of Angry Birds.
But there are no mitigating factors for the movie-spoiler—the person who has already seen the film and just can’t resist revealing its pivotal points to the people who haven’t. No excuses, no chances for redemption or mercy, no court of appeals, either. Abandon hope, all ye with big mouths, and be off to the bungalow down below!
And the penalty is more hellish—a place beneath the bungalow, even hotter, more cramped and unimaginably filthy—for those convicted under special circumstances … that is, for spoiling the twists of these particular films: The Usual Suspects, Psycho, The Crying Game, The Sixth Sense and Les Diaboliques. Oh, and “Oldboy,” made in 2003 and selected for screening this week at Mondo Celluloid.
“Oldboy” is … lets see if I can do this without earning my own quick ticket to Hell’s bungalow … a visceral and epic two-hour orgy of hyper-violence and pitch-black comedy, dazzlingly shot and expertly acted, at times shocking and cringe-inducing, that ultimately leads to a mind-blowing reveal that makes all that prelude seem like child’s play.
Perhaps THE single best cinematic depiction of the hunger for vengeance at its most all-consuming, “Oldboy” became a word-of-mouth curiosity when it won the prestigious Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, presided that year by Quentin Tarantino. More than a dozen international awards later (including Best Foreign Film by the British Independent Film Awards), “Oldboy” landed stateside as an instant cult classic—selling out screenings in Los Angeles and New York, and cementing South Korean director Chan-wook Park as a master of his craft.
The intrigue builds from the film’s earliest frames: Dae-su Oh, an unassuming Everyman, finds himself kidnapped and imprisoned in a dingy cell, with absolutely no idea why or by whom. Fifteen miserable years later, ravenous for answers and brutal revenge, Dae-su suddenly finds that his cell door has been left wide open, and that his liberator has also left him with money, a cell phone, and a sharp suit.
To expound any further on Dae-su’s journey would be to cheat the audience from a film full of surprises, including one of the most celebrated fight sequences since The Matrix, and yes, one hell of a last act.
Celebrated as “Oldboy” is, I still come across art and midnight film enthusiasts who’ve never seen it, so I’m very excited to bring it to Long Beach on a 35mm print. As a whole, “Oldboy” is terrific, a modern classic. But those last 10 minutes alone deserve distinctive recognition; ultimately, it’s the film itself that delivers the final and most brutal punch. Again, to those of you who have seen it, and who are trying to talk your friends into seeing it at The Art on Friday: for the sake of your very soul, do not spoil the ending. Really, don’t go past the first fifteen minutes. Think back on what a ride Oldboy was when you first saw it, more than likely based solely on Tarantino’s very public and enthusiastic endorsement. Throw your friends in the car, bring them to The Art, and sit back with a wry smile as you watch them have their minds blown.
Otherwise, you are going to Hell. Trust me.
Logan Crow is the Founder and Executive Director of the Long Beach Cinematheque, a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating classic and independent cinema by programming film screenings and multimedia events throughout Long Beach. The Cinematheque’s cult cinema series, Mondo Celluloid, runs every Friday at midnight at the Art Theatre of Long Beach. For more information, visit lbcinema.org. For tickets, visit readyticket.net