Old Boy vs The Killer
Updated on May 26, 2010, 10:50 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
Separated by 14 years, however close enough to the time that Dae-su Oh spent imprisoned, Dip huet seung hung (AKA The Killer / Bloodshed of Two Heroes) came from famed Hong Kong director John Woo and Oldeuboi (AKA Old Boy) came from a philosophy student of Sogang University in Seoul: Chan-wook Park. The former was released in 1989 and the latter 2003, but both were met with different sorts of acclaim for their portrayal of violence. One was more of a flashy "Hollywood" flair while the other was a more gritty revenge film. The Killer takes a sort of film noir perspective, and Old Boy makes a dark revenge tale even more twisted than Dumas' and yet, there is a compelling fascination that grabs hold of their audience. Is it because the directors chose to film the movie in their native language? Native country? Or city? Or, could the most compelling facet of the films be that each builds its place in the society in which it was made through the characters sense of honor, which is inherent to the Asian culture.
Woo and Park both have their distinct cinematographic styles, whether it is how they choose to shoot a scene, how they transition from one scene to the next, or how they choose to choreograph a complex fight scene. The number of shootouts in The Killer outnumbers the number of fights in Old Boy, however that doesn't make the latter any less violent. For one of the shootouts in The Killer, an action scene at a beach house, it took 28 days to film, with some 20,000 rounds of ammunition fired, and the final shootout scene took 36 days to shoot, with close to 40,000 rounds of ammunition fired. Old Boy took 3 days to shoot its famous one-take corridor scene where Dae-su fights off close to twenty-plus opponents with a hammer and his bare fists in a tight corridor to get to an elevator. Woo edited his elaborated fight sequences so that it seemed as though his protagonists never had to reload because they shot so many rounds, but he also hid many special effect or choreography tricks through his fast-paced editing. Old Boy had to have some of the punches in that long take "corrected" with CGI to make them land better, and as well the stab Dae-su receives from a knife in the back was "corrected," but the end result is a mesmerizing scene where the first cut away from it reemphasizes the narrowness of the corridor and shows the pleasure Dae-Su got from taking revenge. Meanwhile there is a body count of 120 in The Killer and only 7 on screen deaths in Old Boy, which is a large gap for two movies that have graphic depictions of violence. Park chose to transition from one scene to the next in a more elegant fashion as opposed to Woo, who chose the more traditional method, and as a result the audience gets a feeling of fluidity watching Park's film. Through these devices the audience gets a better understanding of the characters, and their core moral values.
The two main characters of The Killer, Ah Jong and Inspector Li Ying, have a similar sense of honor shared between the two, whereas Dae-su has a different sense of honor that he doesn't share with Woo-jin Lee, the antagonist of Old Boy. The Asian culture has always been steeped in honor, and Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's films are an excellent example. The samurai, who is more like a Ronan, in Yôjinbô (1961) or the group of samurai in Schichinin no samurai (1954) are compelled by their sense of honor to take the actions that they take through the course of the film, and the main characters of Old Boy and The Killer are no different. It's his sense of honor that prevents Ah Jong from harming a woman or child, and even going out of his way to protect and save them, which is odd for a cold blooded killer and that's why Li Ying is attracted to fight alongside him. It's within his sense of honor. In contrast, Woo-jin's sense of honor is what prompts him to have Dae-su locked away for 15 years because he disrespected Woo-jin's family honor by starting a malicious rumor that resulted in the death of Woo-jin's sister. And as well it's Dae-su sense of honor, paired with his anger, that propels him on his path of revenge, but in the end it's also what forces him to cut out his tongue after realizing what dishonor he has brought upon himself for his actions. The honor they share is the sense of honor that they need to exact revenge.
By the end credits The Killer and Old Boy are two movies that share a violent depiction of the society in which they were made, but at the same time retain a sense of the Asian culture in which they were made. One day audiences will merely philosophize the actions of their players.
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