Monday, March 21, 2005

the fun of graphic violence

On Friday, I was pleasantly surprised that Old Boy appears to have gotten distribution in the US and will be opening next week. I'm sure most of you have not heard much of anything about this very violent film from Korea. And if it weren't for Scarecrow Video, I would know of it either. But mixed among new releases and staff picks was this film, and curiosity about this eastern psychological thriller resulted in taking it home.

And all of these weeks later, I am still haunted by Old Boy.



Oh Dae-su is held hostage in a hotel room for 15 years as retribution for some forgotten slight, but he has no idea who his captor is or what sin he has committed that resulted in his captivity. When he is released, he searches for the identity of his captor and attempts to determine the reason for his 15 years of punishment. Old Boy is a very stylized and very brutally violent film, so violent that I would have said that it would never be released in the US. This is a very troubling film. But it is a film that really draws you in. You have to find out why Oh Dae-su was treated so inhumanely and who was responsible and despite the very uncomfortable plot turns and gruesomely violent scenes, I wouldn't look away as I needed to learn the answers as much as Oh did. This is a film that is driven by curiosity and it doesn't hurt that is a great looking film with some unforgettable action sequences, one involving Oh facing more than 20 men, armed with a hammer.

And apparently, Korean cinema is getting a bit of attention right now. I recently caught the chilling, Tale of Two Sisters which shared many qualities with Old Boy. Sisters was more of a ghost story, but like Old Boy, it had a complex and very fascinating plot that develops in directions that totally blind-sided me. And like Old Boy, it was such an enjoyable ride, that I was not concerned with plausibility or whether the plot turns really made logical sense.

Apparently, if these two films are any indication, Korean cinema is gorgeous and absolutely gripping.

And after visiting rotten tomatoes' page for Old Boy, I was surprised by the negative reviews calling the film "gratuitously vile" and "so Graphically violent and narratively twisted, its most appreciative audience will likely be callow males and movie buffs who appreciate the old ultra-violence."

It has come to my attention that I have apparently become desensitized to violence and even rather enjoy violence presented with style and flare. Yes, I might be a teenaged boy deep down inside. My evidence for this is the immense enjoyment of last weekend's Hostage with Bruce Willis. I have read the numerous negative reviews this movie received and I just don't get it.

I had a blast at Hostage.

Now I agree with critics that point out that they threw every cliche in the book at that movie, but I also didn't care. The opening credits were stunning, making a police stand off look like a very sexy video game. And despite following a lot of movie conventions, the plot directions did surprise me and were even rather clever, although just thinking about the details makes it sound so convoluted and silly, but it played out nicely. Hostage turned out to be one part thriller, one part police drama, and one part horror film and that is totally ignoring the sudden emergence of an organized crime subplot. Yes, they put everything in this film, but it worked and was a lot of fun.

And it was one of the bloodiest films I've seen in a while. I stumbled upon a discussion forum that was giving advice to a parent which was hilarious and had turned into a forum of movie fans gleefully sharing their favorite bit of gore from the film. A lot of blood is spilled.

And is it wrong that I kept thinking that Mars (Ben Foster) was rather sexy in a Trent Reznor kind of way?

And in other upcoming movie news, Kill Bill: the Whole Bloody Affair will be hitting theaters soon and will be NC-17 as it is the Japanese cut. Hopefully, putting the two halves together will fix the minor editing annoyances in part 2. I am so excited.

And I am also counting the days to the April release of Sin City, so there is plenty of violent action films in my near future.


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