• The director of Oldboy explains why the protagonist chooses to use a hammer as a weapon, highlighting his resourcefulness and strange optimism.
  • Oldboy‘s hallway fight scene and the use of the hammer have made the movie memorable and groundbreaking in terms of gritty battles.
  • The choice of a hammer as a weapon reflects the low-stakes, personal nature of the story, adding to the gritty realism and relatability of the protagonist.

The director of the original Oldboy, Park Chan-wook, is ready to explain why the movie’s hammer is such an effective tool. Oldboy is a 2003 South Korean action movie that stars Choi Min-sik as its protagonist, Oh Dae-su. After suffering an unexpected imprisonment for 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is finally set free and dedicates himself to enacting vengeance upon his captors. In the process, he has no access to common revenge weapons and instead is forced to use a hammer as a specialty weapon.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Park explained exactly why he chose to ensure that Oh Dae-Su found himself wielding a hammer against his enemies. Park emphasizes that Oh Dae-su never actively wanted to use a hammer, but instead chooses to use it simply because it was there, and believes that the hammer sets Oldboy apart by introducing a weapon that very few other revenge movies can. Check out Park’s quote below:

The action scene where he uses a hammer. We did not choose a hammer itself because it was his favorite weapon. This Oh Dae-su person has confidence no matter what situation he’s in. The mentality of someone who has nothing to lose. That… strange optimism. Normally for a genre film like this about revenge, one has to gather weapons and have in hand. You see that a lot in movies where they open a big bag full of weapons, so, going opposite of that. As he’s looking around, he just grabs whatever he can find. I wanted to show the power of the weapon in this scene. So he chops someone’s foot with it to a point where the audience can feel the pain.

Why Oldboy’s Hammer Worked So Well

Dae-su with a hammer in Oldboy

Today, Oldboy is remembered as a disturbing movie with a harrowing plot twist that makes the entire story as tragic as it is subversive. It features a hallway fight scene that changed filmmaking forever by introducing new ways to create gritty and harrowing battles. With just a hammer and his own stubborn lust for vengeance, Oh Dae-su takes on a horde of enemies and somehow escapes with his life. That hammer has become the most memorable piece of Oldboy.

Just as Oldboy‘s hallway fight has deeper meaning, the hammer itself has a pure and practical reasoning that cuts to the heart of Oh Dae-su’s character. Instead of taking the steps to search for more practical weapons, he instead relies on what is already within his reach. It culminates in his horrific actions at the end of the movie, as he searches for a way to murder Lee Woo-jin. Just as he did before, instead of searching for a practical tool, Oh Dae-su relies on the weapon that is already in his vicinity, and it has truly appalling repercussions.

The existence of Oldboy‘s hammer is also a testament to the movie’s relatively low stakes. It is a deeply personal journey, rather than a world-shattering event. His personal life is the heart of the story. The presence of a gun or sword can add an element of surrealism that would take away from the gritty reality of the crime thriller. Oh Dae-su uses a weapon that can be found in any tool box, and it is why Oldboy feels as impactful and as profoundly honest as it does. Just as anyone can have a hammer, any viewer could become Oh Dae-su.

Source: Vanity Fair

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