If South Korean cinema is a genre that has rabidly appropriated and imitated other genres, then Oldboy is surely a South Korean imitation of a Takashi Miike film, it reminding in particular of Ichi the Killer (2001). Director Park Chan-wook has down perfect Miikes eccentric sense of humour and the casually littered violence. Park delves into the same audience-challenging assaults on good taste that Miike regularly does there is a scene with hero Choi Min-sik eating a live octopus, scenes of him torturing people to get information by wrenching their teeth out with a claw hammer and an almost unwatchably nasty piece of self-mutilation with a pair of scissors at the climax, all of which could sit easily in a Miike film. Indeed, the journey that Oldboy takes feels similar to the one in Miikes Audition (1999), and Park Chan-wook even borrows little Miike eccentricities such as having graphics appear showing the intended trajectory of a hammer held over someones head.
Oldboy starts out seeming as though it is going to be an ultra-violent revenge film along the lines of Death Wish (1974), the recent repellently nasty Man on Fire (2004) or some Death Wish imitator. Instead, Oldboy twists its genre around altogether, becoming an existential quest more along the lines of a film like The Magus (1968) or The Game (1997) with the protagonist being put through a cryptic game by a mysterious controlling figure who keeps making him question his own life in search of an answer to the puzzle. The end revelation when it comes is a genuine shocker, one that it at least on the order of similar revelations in The Crying Game (1992) and The Sixth Sense (1999). Although, far more shocking than any of the scenes of wildly histrionic violence that follow is the final coda (set for some reason in the New Zealand Alps) where the hero decides to deal with his pain using a hypnotist. In all regards, Oldboy is a film that genuinely goes the distance, pushing way over taboo lines and holding nothing back.
Oldboy has been long announced for an English-language remake, with names such as Steven Spielberg having been associated. This eventually emerge as the heavily disappointing Oldboy (2013) under Spike Lee starring Josh Brolin in the lead role. Zinda (2006) was also an uncredited Bollywood ripoff.
Prior to Oldboy, Park Chan-wook was best known for Joint Security Area (2000). He has visited the theme of revenge in a number of other films, including Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), as well as revisited the ultra-sadistic territory of Oldboy in the Cut segment of the Asian horror anthology Three ... Extremes (2004), as well as at the climax of The Handmaiden (2016). Park subsequently returned to genre material with the eccentric comedy Im a Cyborg, But Thats OK (2006), the vampire film Thirst (2009) and the English-language horror film Stoker (2013), as well as produced the science-fiction film Snowpiercer (2013).