Oldboy (2013) – Film Review

Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-Wook’s 2003 stellar thriller falls short of expectations.

Before delving into the subject any further I recommend any readers to watch the original film first then the remake, if you’re really committed go ahead and read the manga before the original film.

The film revolves around Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) who was imprisoned for 20 years by an unknown captor and for an unknown reason. Upon his release he teams up with longtime friend Chucky (Michael Imperioli) and Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) to help him find his daughter and the man who imprisoned him.

He chases down leads until he finds the prison and its owner, Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson), after a grisly torture scene Spike Lee attempts to emulate Park Chan-Wook’s incredible three minute fight scene but his efforts are in vain. Joe eventually comes face to face with this perpetrator simply known as The Stranger (Sharlto Copley). The Stranger tells Joe he has 2 days to find out who he is and why he imprisoned him, if he fails his daughter will die.

I’ll avoid all spoilers and simply say the story takes various intense twists and twirls and reaches an altogether thrilling conclusion.

It’s hard to critique this film without the brilliance of the original weighing heavily on your mind. Hypothetically speaking, if we were to imagine Lee’s Oldboy was the original it would come across as a solid thriller with an authentic and new style, but that’s an impossibility. Ultimately, it didn’t hit hard like the 2003 release, it didn’t punch you in the face with the twist or make you wriggle with pity at Min-sik Choi’s lead character. It was a foreign work of art eaten up by the Hollywood machine.

Various departments of the film were inconsistent, from performance to editing. Even though the Korean director told Lee to ‘not remake my film, but make your own’ he still tainted a holy name. But the worst part had to be Lee making huge changes the story itself which proved to be fatal to the final product. This is best shown through what it garnered from the box office, or rather what it didn’t: the film lost over $25 million. A serious disappointment

Special note – The film did uphold the universal law of cinema in that the script gave Samuel L. Jackson at least a dozen ‘fuck’s and half a dozen or so ‘motha’fucker’s.

My Rating – 4/10

Dan Iacono


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