Basic story line - dude gets kidnapped and locked in a room, by himself, for 15 years. He has no clue why but he sure wants to get back at 'em for doing it. At the end of 15 years he's released. We follow him as he sets out to find out who did this to him and why.
It is a Korean-made revenge quest psycho-thriller drama with some bloody action scenes.
In advance please pardon my french: This movie is FUCKED UP. But in this case that's a good thing.
That said - the cinematography is incredible. Visuals, cuts, editing - superb. Acting - tough to call since I don't understand Korean, but not too shabby. This movie works despite having to read captions to understand the dialog. One can easily spot the Hitchcock influences in the filming of this flick. The one-take hallway fight scene isn't quite as grand as the one-take in The Protector, but that makes it no less awesome. It isn't overly bloody/violent, American cinema has had worse, but has plenty of both when appropriate to the story.
Bonus: I've seen folks eat squirming tentacles cut from live octopodes (on National Geographic), but I've never watched someone eat a whole live octopus head-first before. The tentacles grabbing his hands and face while he chewed - disturbing but cool.
If you can't stand fuckedupshit in your movies this one might be too much for ya. Me - I liked this movie a lot. Moreso for aesthetic, technical, visual reasons than for certain story details, however those extremely distasteful plot points are necessary for the movie as a whole so I can deal. Korean movie based on Japanese manga should explain it. This is a good movie that overcomes cultural differences. A good story is a good story, and when it's filmed as good as this movie, even better.
Definitely deserves its inclusion in IMDB's top 250, as opposed to other flicks in that list that just don't belong.
(yeah, I know - language in the post. well, those are the best and most appropriate descriptive words because they can mean positive criticism, negative criticism, or both positive and negative at the same time)
(originally posted 1 March 2010)
Edit 22 May 2011:
Just rewatched this via Netflix streaming. The streaming version has English overdub and no captions - I noticed it made a difference to the film. Not sure why - perhaps because I'm used to reading captions anyhow? My memory is foggy on what the original film score happened to be, but I'm suspecting the new soundtrack isn't the original score. I could be very wrong on that point, but I don't have the DVD to compare. My suggestion - if you aren't bugged by dubbed films, go for the streaming. Otherwise, get the DVD/BluRay and watch with original Korean soundtrack and captioning.
But - still a really good film. I liked it even better this second trip through the movie despite the English dub distraction. Remembering the story details didn't detract one bit from the film, which is a sign of a good film IMO.
I happened to notice that Spielberg and Will Smith's names have been attached to a possible adaptation of this film for American audiences. If they do I hope they don't ruin it. I can think of some key plot details that would be changed for the American moviegoer palate. I don't know how well this film would work if they did. My guess is they'd seriously water down the plot motivators and amp up the action/fight scenes and probably end up with a homogenized standard American film fare mess that makes lots of money 'cause it's Spielberg and Smith. I'll be surprised if they do the original film justice. But I'm bitterly skeptical that way.