Oldboy Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

20-year Revenge: The Idea Of ​​the American Version Of The Film Oldboy (2013). Film “Oldboy” : Plot Analysis, Meaning of The Ending, Differences From The Korean Film

Country: USA

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Detective

Year of production: 2013

Directed by: Spike Lee

Cast: Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli

Oldboy is an American film adaptation of the cult Korean thriller. The original received rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, so American producers immediately bought an interesting story. However, they removed their version only after 10 years. What is the meaning of the movie “Oldboy”? To explain the idea, let’s do a little analysis of the picture.

Remake of 2003 Korean movie

American “Oldboy” almost completely repeats the plot of the original film. It also tells the story of a worthless man who cares about nothing but himself.

As punishment, he ends up in a locked room where he is regularly fed and TV shows are shown. Only unlike Joseph Dusse’s 20-year imprisonment, Oh Dae-soo spends 15 years locked up. All this time, the hero is fed the same way: in the Korean version, the diet consists of dumplings and tea, the “American” is regularly sent a bottle of vodka.

enforced confinement JoeFrame from the film.

When the hero manages to break free, he will have to figure out the reasons for his misadventures. The main antagonist, who, in fact, arranged everything, offers the main character a bet. The bottom line is that if the former prisoner finds out the reasons, he wins, and his daughter remains alive. If not, the girl dies.

Despite the similarity of the storyline and the history of the protagonist, the presentation of the material in the American version is noticeably different. And not in a good way for the movie.

If Park Chan Wook really keeps the intrigue, bringing his hero to a natural ending, and explains the cause and effect relationships in some detail, then Spike Lee followed the traditional Hollywood concept.

In particular, the American “Oldboy” is more like one of the action films about James Bond, and not of the best quality. This moment is noted by many critics who wrote reviews of this film. As a result, the hidden meaning that the Korean director put into his work is on the surface and smeared with unnecessary details.

The ending of the story also changes. Joe Dusset recommends that his daughter forget him and not seek a meeting with him, voluntarily returning to her prison. Oh Dae Soo cuts out his tongue to keep the information a secret and uses a hypnotist to erase everything that happened from his memory.

However, his daughter finds him and tells him that she loves him. Given that the smile on the hero’s face is quickly replaced by a grimace of pain, the hypnotic block did not work, and he will have to bear his cross for the rest of his life.

Plot Analysis

To understand the meaning of the American version of the film “Oldboy”, let’s briefly go through the main aspects of the story. So, the main character is Joe Dusset. This is a chronic drunkard and rowdy who breaks a lucrative contract by offering the client’s wife to sleep with him.

He gets drunk on his daughter’s birthday, although in a drunken stupor he buys a present for a three-year-old girl. However, at this point, his life changes dramatically. He finds himself in a private prison, where he is fed, drunk with vodka and even periodically cut his hair.

Here Joe learns that he is accused of raping and murdering his wife. The evidence against him is fabricated, but for society he is a brutal killer on the run. He continues to drink and even tries to commit suicide, but he does not even have that chance. The camera is under round-the-clock video surveillance.

In captivity, Joe changes. He gives up alcohol, starts exercising to get himself in good physical shape. But most importantly, the man develops an escape plan in order to be free and take his daughter from foster parents. By the way, Joe writes letters every day, which shows that the girl has become the dearest person for him on earth.

After 20 years, the hero is released. He wakes up in a box in the middle of a field, with letters and a good sum of money. He is trying to find those who took a big piece out of his life, and accidentally meets a girl named Marie. She is imbued with the story of the protagonist and provides him with all possible assistance in the investigation. Gradually, the friendship between Joe and Marie develops into something more, and they spend a hot night in a hotel.

Joe's release from captivityFrame from the film.

Joe meets a stranger who manipulates his life. The villain offers our hero a bet. Joe answers two questions over the course of two days:

  • Why did he spend 20 years in prison;
  • What is the name of his tormentor.

If Dusset fails this task, his daughter Mia will die.


The plot of the movie “Oldboy” revolves around revenge. And both take revenge here: the main character and the main villain. The latter takes revenge for his sister, who, at the suggestion of Joe, was bullied in college, calling them a whore. Dussen accidentally caught the girl while she was having sex with her own father, and spread the rumor around the campus.

As a result, the influential and wealthy man Arthur Price was forced to move his family to Luxembourg, where after some time he shot his wife and children, after which he committed suicide.

Arthur corrupted his son and daughter, but the children did not suffer from this state of affairs at all, and sincerely loved their dear daddy. Adrian Price was lucky enough to survive, and in retaliation for his failed life, he decided to take Dusen through all the circles of hell.

It was he who imprisoned Joe in a private prison, where for 20 years of imprisonment the man sincerely fell in love with his daughter. However, he did not know that on the TV screen he had been shown a completely different girl all this time. It was a show for a single viewer. In reality, his daughter was Marie, and Adrian very cleverly led Joe to incest with his own child.

incest joe with marieFrame from the film.

When the truth was revealed to the man, a breakdown occurred in his soul. He no longer wanted revenge, and his only desire was that his daughter would not find out anything about who he really was to Marie.

However, Adrian left the protagonist to deal with his inner demons on his own. The last of the Price family put a bullet in his head by fulfilling the conditions of the bet. As a result, Joe was left alone with a bunch of diamonds and a heavy stone in his soul.

The meaning of the ending

The meaning of the ending of the film “Oldboy” has a fairly simple explanation. Adrian Price loved his sister and father all his life. And this love was far from platonic.

He chose Joe, whose role in this story was decisive, as the culprit of his failed life. It was after his gossip that the Price family was forced to leave, and the head of the family decided to put an end to this love affair.

It is difficult to understand when this ingenious multi-move was born in Adrian’s head, but he brilliantly implemented his plan. First he made Joe fall in love with his daughter with his father’s love, and then he brought them together as a man and a woman. He probably expected that Dussen would live with his daughter, as with a mistress, clearly realizing what he was doing.

Joe and his revengeFrame from the film.

However, Joe decided otherwise. He did not tell Marie anything, so he remained in her memory only a fleeting romantic hobby, which is in no way associated with her father. At the same time, he transferred most of the diamonds received for winning the bet to his daughter. Along with a gift I bought for her third birthday. Thus, he paid off for all those years when he was absent from her life, while giving a chance to start everything from scratch.

He gave the remaining jewels to his former jailers, most likely paying his life allowance. Therefore, the end of the film is quite logical.

Initially, Dusen paid for the mistake he made in his youth. This helped him to reconsider his own life, finding the main meaning in it. He then imprisoned himself voluntarily, paying the price for the sin he was forced to commit. When he returned to prison, he made sure no one knew about it.

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