“Ask not why you were imprisoned, ask why you were set free,” said Adrian to Joe Doucett.
As a fan of Park Chan-wook and the original classic, I remember I was more excited than worried when I heard that Hollywood had a plan to remake Chan-wook’s Oldboy (Oldeuboi). But now, when it comes to seeing it, I suddenly forget I was excited to see it. I appreciate Spike Lee’s efforts not to do a bleak, raw remake of it, but, come on…
Spike Lee’s remake is working on Mark Protosevich’s script, which I say: trying to deviate the original in many things, yet, pay a respectful homage to it (although this one is not working at all). Oddly, this Oldboy still have a drunk man, drugged, kidnapped, and prisoned in a hotel-like room—with a TV to tell him about the world and daily dumplings to feed him. Only, our man is now imprisoned for 20 years (5 years longer than the original) and he is Joe Doucett (a more gloomy than douchebag Josh Brolin), who has a longer prologue than the original Oh Dae-su; a prologue that try to dictate the audiences that Brolin deserves his fate—luckily, it’s something that the original doesn’t have. From the TV in his “room”, he learns things, like someone frames him for the murder of his hateful wife (come on!), his daughter is adopted, and there is a new crime show in TV talking about him.
The same as the original, when Joe almost finds a breakout, he is suddenly released (in a bigger luggage, without the metaphysics element in it). Stuffed with the revenge in his mouth, Joe meets a young girl, Marie Sebastian (portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen), who shelters him and takes care of him. On his way to his vengeance, he encounters a comical strange, Adrian (portrayed by Sharlto Copley) confessing as his kidnapper. From there, we’ll see a more violent action packed in a jetset run, including the redefinition of the famous corridor fight and the torture of Samuel L. Jackson’s mohawk man. Director Spike Lee decides not to merely imitate them but rather expand them with his over-the-top taste, which I think is good but rather deviating.
The original Oldboy relies much on the twist and the blur lines between imagination and reality; this Oldboy relies even much on the violent (intentionally to be an R-Rated one). In the end, the truth is sour for this Oh Dae-su 2.0 a.k.a Joe because his fate is Americanized. It makes a good twist that might pull attention of those who haven’t watched the original, yet, the logic is too logical and less taboo—blotting out the original fun. I don’t know for sure; but I guess there is a misinterpretation in transferring a South Korean taboo in the Western culture—where everything is logical but not in a state of being “hog wild.”
Respectful homage. Take a scene-to-scene look at this film, you’ll find that this movie is okay. The hotel/prison, the corridor fighting, the flashback in school, and the twist: okay. Yet, you might find some details a little bugging. I don’t think they need to bring back the octopus with a familiar look, or the angel wings if there is no significance to the plot. They’re rather some souvenirs from the original that will make people feel the ‘been there, done that’ feeling. Along with horrible, lame, comical actings from the actors (Sorry, Copley. Sorry, Brolin), this remake is disappointing. However, Spike Lee’s Oldboy has already become one of the most terrible flop during last year’s Thanksgiving after all.
Watch the original instead.
Thriller, Action, Drama, Remake Running Time: 104 Mins Directed by: Spike Lee Written by: Mark Protosevich Starred by: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Michael Imperioli