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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Invading the privacy of others may backfire on you. But the film has more negative messages than positive ones, with revenge a central theme no matter the collateral damage.
Positive Role Models
Dae-su stops drinking and trains hard as he learns to fight, but it's for the negative purpose of seeking revenge. Woo-jin manipulates others and refuses to take responsibility for the death of a loved one, blaming it on Dae-su. Both leads lose their integrity and humanity in the process of trying to destroy each other.
All cast members are South Korean. Male leads are complex characters, but women are depicted as sex objects who need to be saved by men. They're also used as excuses for the male leads to hurt others.
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Violence & Scariness
Extreme violence includes fistfights, a hammer fight, shooting sprees. A severed hand is shown. Characters pull teeth from each other's mouths, punch a wall with bloody fists, cut off their own tongue. Multiple deaths via suicide. A news report discusses stab wounds on a murder victim. A man falls from a roof onto a car and dies. A man eats a live octopus and ants burrow through skin. Sexual violence includes a woman tied up, bare breasts shown, the film implying that men have touched her breasts against her will. A teen brother takes off his teen sister's underwear and bra without her clear consent. Another incestuous relationship between a father and his daughter.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Focuses on two incestuous relationships: one between a father and his daughter, the other between teen siblings. The father and daughter have sustained, graphic sex; breasts and bottoms shown. A long flashback depicts a brother undressing his sister and kissing her bare breasts. Classmates spread rumors that she's pregnant with his child (she's not). A man masturbates to images of clothed women on television; nothing sensitive shown.
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Frequent use (in English subtitles) of "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "piss," "d--ks--t," "hell," "whore." Exclamatory use of "oh God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A character is very drunk in one scene. Character sprayed with Valium gas every night. Brief smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Oldboy is renowned director Park Chan-wook's second addition to his "Vengeance Trilogy," released after 2002's Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. It has extremely mature sexual themes related to incest, a sustained graphic sex scene, and nudity (breasts and bottoms). Several vicious fight scenes involve martial arts, blunt objects (a hammer), and lots of blood. Characters die. There's shooting, arguing, struggling, sexual violence, and characters who are kidnapped and trapped. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and more. A character appears very drunk in one scene, Valium gas is used to put someone to sleep, and smoking is shown. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Park Chan-wook's vicious story of vengeance is shocking but explores the complexity of human nature on a thrillingly primal level. The first images of Dae-su in Oldboy -- seen in Korean with English subtitles for this review -- are of an obnoxious drunk, but it's not long before his confinement makes us sympathetic; no one deserves this kind of torture. Yet his mind is free, and it's intriguing to see his attempts to pass the time, to hold onto something. All the while, the mystery of his imprisonment makes these moments doubly intriguing. Even after the character's release, Park continues to sustain the movie's intensity to the final shot, playing off of the character's transformation.
Now taut, darkened, and haunted, he's as unsure of himself around his love interest Mi-do as he is capable of violence. An unforgettable scene has him eating a live squid just to feel the sensation of it. But in arguably the movie's most famous shot, Park simply tracks left and right for several minutes as Dae-su fights dozens of men in real time. But within the adrenaline rush of his revenge journey, Mi-do (and other female characters) pay the price for male ego. Park fails to give them any agency, leaving a sour taste in an otherwise intriguing and brutal mystery.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.