Starring: Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-Tae and Gang Hye-Jung
Tartan Asia Extreme
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 18
Available 22 October 2007

Dae-su, having gone and got drunk on the day of his daughter's birthday, ends up in jail. Although his old friend, Joo-Hwan, bails him out he mysteriously disappears only to wake up in a cell that looks like a cheap hotel room. Imprisoned for fifteen years, where he suffers madness and is framed for his wife's murder, he vows revenge once he is released. But who had him locked up and why? The first clues come when he is given a mobile phone and a wallet, but fifteen years is a long time and he strikes up a relationship with a local sushi chef, Mi-do...

Tartan has continued its new Blu-ray line with the release of the brilliant, the disturbing and the 'must see' Oldboy (2003). The story is as simple as it is twisted.

Oldboy, based on a manga by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya, is part of Parks revenge trilogy, which includes Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The trilogy is the antithesis of the idea that revenge is sweet as in each case the desire for revenge only brings more misery to everyone concerned.

Park Chan-Wook is a South Korean director of uncompromising power and vision. Often his films make uncomfortable viewing though they are never less than intriguingly entertaining. He has quite justifiably been called the South Korean Quentin Tarrantino, and it's easy to run out of superlatives when trying to convey just how good the direction, stories and acting are.

The film is mesmerising, a kaleidoscope of violence and horror and that's not because of the number of stabbings, shooting and tongue cutting - though that one is particularly gruesome. The worst of the horror come from what individuals will do in the name of love and in the name of revenge.

Choi Min-sik rivets your eyes to the screen with his depiction of the apparently innocent Dae-su, but this is Park territory and here there are few innocents. His presence on the screen, as one mass of brooding resentment, is relentless. Only in his relationship with Mi-do, played by Kang Hye-jeong, does he have any humanity left, but this humanity comes at a very high price. Yu Ji-tae, who plays Lee Woo-jin the man who stole fifteen years of Dae-su's life, is brilliantly played as a warped, driven character out for a slice of revenge of his own.

The Blu-ray disc can hold an enormous amount of information and this is reflected not only in the pin perfect picture but also in the amount of extras and options that can be offered. The disc holds an impressive range of audio options, including, stereo, 5.1, 7.1 Korean tracks with optional English subtitles and an English language stereo or 5.1 version. Whilst the original Korean version is arguably the best, the English dub is actually surprisingly good, allowing people who hate subtitles to still enjoy this extraordinary film.

However, what's even more impressive is that Tartan has included the original DVD into the bargain. So, if you are contemplating buying a Blu-ray player, but haven't quite managed to trudge down the high street yet, you can rest assured that you are slowly building your Blu-ray collection but can still watch the film on your trusty DVD player.

On the extras side you can enjoy three full length commentaries: one from the director, one from both the director and cinematographer and one from the director and cast - these are presented in Korean with English subtitles. To round the disc off you have the original trailer and some lengthy deleted scenes with optional commentary.

So, if like me, you already own Oldboy, why on earth should you shell out for it again? Well you get to see the film as Park intended, with richer colour and more detail in the picture, and some audio options that will have your home cinema system singing like a bird, plus great commentaries.

The only fly in the ointment is that you will have to shell out for a PS3 or a Blu-ray player to see the film as Tartan does not support the HD standard. Still, with prices dropping all the time that shouldn't be too much of a stretch for serious lovers of film.

Charles Packer

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