Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.
A South Korean movie very loosely based on a Japanese manga of the same name, and is the second and most well-known installment of Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy, which begins with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and ends with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The film also has several parallels to The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as Shout Outs to Titus Andronicus.
Oh Dae-su is an alcoholic businessman with a wife and daughter who is released by the police after a night of drunken misconduct, and then is abruptly kidnapped without a trace. Locked inside a hotel room, completely cut off from the outside world except for a TV, and drugged with knock-out gas every so often, he eventually learns that during his disappearance his wife has been killed, and he has been framed as the murderer. Enraged by his predicament, he finds ways to pass the time, writing his memoirs, training his fists and slowly inching towards his eventual escape.
But just days before his long-awaited breakout fifteen years later, he is just as mysteriously released, with nice clothes, money, a cell phone, a severely weakened psyche, a fugitive status and a million unanswered questions. With the help of a female Japanese chef named Mido and one of his old computer-geek friends, he tries to piece together the scattered clues of who took his life away from him, cutting down anyone who gets in his path.
Since this is a movie that has some major twists and surprises, watch out for spoilers.
- Affably Evil: Woo-jin is pretty charming.
- Always Save the Girl: Oh Dae-su cuts out his own tongue to ensure he can never let Mi-do know that she is his daughter.
- And I Must Scream: Oh Dae-su's predicament for fifteen years.
- And then again, after he cuts out his tongue.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Woo-jin gets his revenge, though he shoots himself in the head almost immediately afterwards.
- Batman Gambit
- Bound and Gagged
- Brother-Sister Incest: Woo-Jin and his sister.
- But for Me It Was Tuesday: An exceedingly rare heroic example: Oh Dae-su accuses Woo-Jin of hypnotizing him to forget that he was the initial cause of events that led to Woo-Jin's sister's suicide. However:
Lee Woo-Jin: "You weren't drugged. You just forgot. It wasn't important to you."
- The Chessmaster: Lee Woo-Jin. And as the film picks up speed, he gets faster.
- Cycle of Revenge
- Dead Little Sister: Pretty much the crux of Woo-Jin's motivation.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Woo-Jin practically IS this trope.
- His reason for locking up Dae-Su for fifteen years? "You talk too much."
- Drop the Hammer
- Enigmatic Minion: Mr. Han, Woo-Jin's silent bodyguard. He gets one line in the whole movie and almost kills Dae-Su before getting shot in the head by his employer.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Woo-jin tells the prison warden not to let Mido know of the incest.
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: The live octopus-eating scene.
- Eye Scream: Oh Dae-su stabs one of Woo-jin's henchmen in the eye with a broken toothbrush. We don't see anything gory, though.
- Face Death with Dignity: Woo-jin takes a hot shower and puts on his best suit before shooting himself.
- Fan Disservice: The first time audiences see the sex scene between Dae-Su and Mido, it's probably tantalizing. Once they're hit with the revelation of Mido being his daughter, the scene is much less appealing in retrospect or upon repeated viewings.
- 555: Averted, as the address - both the street number and PO box - to Dae-su's daughter's foster parents in reality belongs to a hotel in Stockholm.
- Gambit Roulette: Woo-jin. So much.
- Go Mad From the Revelation: Dae-su, after learning he has been framed for the murder of his wife.
- And when he finds out that Squick Mido is his daughter.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Two occurrences: When Dae-su rips out Mr Park's teeth with the fork of a hammer, and when he cuts his own tongue out.
- Incest Is Relative: Well, Mido doesn't know...
- Informed Self Diagnosis
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
- The Jailer
- Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition: Quite a few different editions for the film have been released, including various limited editions.
- Love At First Sight: Deconstructed.
- Near-Rape Experience: Interestingly, Played for Laughs.
- No Animals Were Harmed: Very Averted. Four real octopuses were used for the eating scene. (Choi Min-sik, a Buddhist in real life, gave a prayer before eating each one.)
- The Oner: A number of them throughout the film.
- Parental Incest
- Psychological Horror
- Punch a Wall: A large part of Oh Dae-su's self-training.
- Shout-Out: To Titus Andronicus including the scene with the tongue, and the father-daughter incest.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Vivaldi's Winter plays while Oh Dae-su rips Mr Park's teeth out.
- Surprise Incest
- Token Romance: Subverted in the case of Oh Dae-su and Mi-Do.
- The Tooth Hurts: The tooth-pulling scene.
- Unwitting Pawn: Mido, and to a lesser extent Oh Dae-Su.
- Villainous Breakdown: Woo-jin before his suicide.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer