Like Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus with chopsticks, this Korean thriller is a modern Asian answer to the Elizabethan revenge tragedy. Full of insanely grand passions, bloodthirsty violence and jet black comedy, it's a sadistic masterpiece that confirms Korea's current status as producer of some of the world's most exciting cinema. Choi Min-sik (Chihwaseon and Shiri) stars as kidnap victim Dae-su, who's locked up for 15 years by an anonymous enemy. Escaping, he vows to get his revenge.
With its twisting and turning plot, it's hard to talk about Old Boy without spoiling the delirious sense of disorientation that awaits first time viewers. Embarking on his quest to discover the man responsible for his imprisonment, Dae-su teams up with female sushi chef (Gang Hye-jung) - impressing her by chowing down on a live octopus then passing out - and unravels a conspiracy that brings him eyeball to eyeball with the mocking cruelty of fate.
"AN EXHAUSTING JOURNEY INTO THE DARKENED HEART OF THE REVENGER"
Winner of the Grand Jury prize at Cannes (and with Quentin Tarantino heading the jury that's really no surprise) this brutally violent, frequently insanely off-kilter comedy-action-thriller has all the hallmarks of another Asian filmmaker, Takashi Miike. Like Miike's movies - from Ichi The Killer to Gozu - Old Boy assaults its audience with outrageous ultra-violence.
Seat-squirming moments include a dental extraction using a claw hammer and no anaesthetic, a tongue being snipped out with scissors and a brilliantly staged corridor fight scene in which Dae-su takes on 20-odd blokes single-handedly, throwing himself in all directions as the camera struggles to keep up.
True it lacks the lean, mean ruthlessness of director Chan-Wook Park's brilliant - and much overlooked - Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, but it's a more ambitious film, slipping into the realm of Grand Guignol as it takes us on an exhausting journey into the darkened heart of the revenger - then wrenches that bloody and still beating organ from the poor sap's chest.
In Korean with English subtitles