Park Chan-wook’s ‘Oldboy’ Will Return to Theaters for 20th Anniversary

Neon is returning “Oldboy ” to theaters just in time for its 20th anniversary.

Park Chan-wook’s acclaimed and influential psychological thriller will return to U.S. theaters August 16. It debuted in five theaters in March 2005 (it opened in South Korea in November 2003) and at its peak played in just 28 auditoriums for a domestic total of $707,481 before finding a cult fandom. It can be presumed that this theatrical reengagement will play a bit wider than the first release.

A loose remake of Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi’s Japanese manga of the same name, “Oldboy” stars Choi Min-sik as a general lout of a human being who is mysteriously kidnapped and kept in a single room for 20 years before being just as randomly released from captivity. He has no idea who took him or why, but he is unleashed back into the world with little to live for save for revenge and moral absolution.

Along with the puzzling plot, with some genuinely shocking twists, the picture features a legendary single-take action sequence where our protagonist slaughters a slew of enemies with a hammer. That sequence took three days and 17 takes to get right.

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The film ranked fifth in South Korea in 2003, eventually earning $15 million worldwide on a $3 million budget before becoming a post-theatrical favorite and a metaphorical gateway drug for “extreme” Korean genre flicks. “Oldboy” was preceded by “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” in 2002 and “Lady Vengeance” in 2005, with the trio making up Park Chan-Wook’s unofficial “Vengeance trilogy.” He would follow up with the English-language “Stoker” in 2013, “The Handmaiden” in 2016 and “Decision to Leave” in 2022.

Amusingly enough, the 10th anniversary, in November 2013, was unofficially “celebrated” with a poorly received English-language remake directed by Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin, Samuel L. Jackson and Elizabeth Olsen. Lee’s version grossed $2.1 million domestically and $5 million worldwide on a $30 million budget, a gross that this reissue could theoretically surpass. Lee got his groove back (“Chi-Raq,” “BlacKKKlansman” and “Da 5 Bloods”) soon after.

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