BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
NOVEMBER 30, 2013
Nowhere near the masterpiece that is Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy,” Spike Lee gives an admirable attempt at bringing the 2003 cult classic to life in American cinemas. Josh Brolin embodies the drunken misogynist, Joe Doucett that we eventually root for after he’s framed for his ex-wife’s murder and imprisoned by an unknown person for 20 years. However, his revenge rampage that follows is nothing like what we experienced in the South Korean version of the film. Instead of a street gang hustling the main character for money to show off Oh Dae-Su’s newfound fighting skills, a harmless football team is brutalized for trying to check on the female Joe is harassing. The long take fight sequence that the original film is known for is also mishandled, as it becomes a lesson in bad stunt-fighting, with ghost punches and bad props filling the entire take. I do extend a slight appreciation for certain scenes that Lee chooses not to recreate, like the humorous drunken bout at the police station and the elevator sequence when Oh Dae-Su is first released. These are moments that just wouldn’t translate to American cinema.
The element of “Oldboy” that I appreciated most was the casting, especially Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, and even Samuel L. Jackson. Even though Jackson felt typecast in this mean spirited, shady business owner, he fits the part so well it’s hard not to justify. Elizabeth Olsen is fantastic in the role of Marie Sebastian, who becomes attached to Joe after helping him with his injuries and joins him as he searches for his daughter and the man responsible for locking him away. Sharlto Copley displays his true acting prowess, like The Stranger, a true villainous force to be reckoned with, capturing a hint of what we’d see in a James Bond villain. Copley, a man that often feels on the lesser side of an actor, grabs such hold of this role, that he becomes one of the highlights of the film. With a strong cast covering up many of the flaws of the remake, Spike Lee’s venture into this story is at least more enjoyable than I had anticipated. Whenever a great film is remade, the bar is set so high that the remake cannot possibly live up to its standards, but “Oldboy” at least remains an entertaining film and reaches just a little bit further than the disaster it could have been.
November 27, 2013
by Park Chan-wook, Im Joon-hyeong, & Hwang Jo-yoon
(for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity, and language)
Barry Alexander Brown
Samuel L. Jackson