When news broke that Spike Lee will remake Korean director Park Chan-wook’s 2003 film, Oldboy, the pressure was on. Well, Lee delivers a knockout with his reinterpretation of the cult classic. Lee’s version is a grisly, blood-filled thriller of revenge and regret that ditches some details and reshapes some components from the original, while keeping intact the essential framework of the dark road-of-redemption tale.
Like the original film, Lee’s Oldboy revolves around Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), a worthless alcoholic ad exec and absentee father who’s pretty much the jerk of the century. The story begins in 1993, where we watch Joe methodically have the worse day known to man. After a huge ad deal goes south to his fault, he goes on a mindless drunken solo rage around the city. Instead of ending up on someone’s couch or even in the ICU for intoxication, he’s imprisoned in a decrepit, windowless hotel room. There he’s fed, through a hole in the locked door like a dog, the same carryout Chinese dumplings every day plus vodka for the next 20 years. His only source of what’s going on in the outside world is this wall-mounted television that provides news on current events (Katrina, 9/11, presidential elections) and a bizarre program, similar to America’s Most Wanted, that showcases mysteries. One crime in particular that is shown is the murder of Joe’s wife, for which he’s framed. On the show, they also keep tabs on his daughter, who’s invited as a guest. In that hotel room we witness a man go mad, find his meaning in life, rebuild himself both physically and mentally and suddenly get released in 2013. There we watch Joe’s search for the person who trapped him, why they did it, and his daughter. Fans of the original may find themselves analyzing, point-by-point with what changed, but they’ll be entertained nonetheless. If you haven’t seen the earlier version, you best have a strong gut for gore and a love for dark tragedies because it’s going to be a long ride.
Josh Brolin — Josh Brolin played the role of mindless drunk turned butt-kicking dad bent on revenge perfectly. We’ve seen him in these gritty roles before (No Country For Old Men, True Grit), but this one is a bit different. He captures the complexity of the character beautifully as he portrays a man who’s been detached from civilization for two decades. He gets completely freaked about his iPhone and wonders where all the pay phones went. Brolin’s character goes down a rabbit hole of carnage and malice until he gets the answers he was looking for, eliminating anyone who was a part of his imprisonment. He transforms both physically and psychology, but like every tragedy, there is never a happy ending.
The warehouse fight scene — Fans of the original Oldboy can let out a huge sigh of relief to know that the classic fight scene from the 2003 film is kept intact. Park’s amazing choreography—shot like frames of a comic book brought to life—is shot beautifully by Lee who adds more fluidity, constructing a poetic-like battle. As waves of bodyguards after bodyguards attack Joe, the camera picks up every kick, punch, stab and shot.
Shocking ending — The film comes to a climatic end, and it’s pretty tragic. This is one of the areas that Lee changes from the original, yet you still get a major twist that will leave you flabbergasted. You’ve been warned.
XXL Rating: XL
Oldboy is in theaters nationwide today. Rating: R. Running time: 103 MIN.
Directed by Spike Lee; written by Mark Protosevich, based on the Korean motion picture by Park Chanwook; director of photography, Sean Bobbitt; edited by Barry Alexander Brown; music by Roque Baños; production design by Sharon Seymour; costumes by Ruth Carter; produced by Roy Lee, Doug Davison and Nathan Kahane; released by Film District. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes.
WITH: Josh Brolin (Joe Doucett), Elizabeth Olsen (Marie Sebastian), Sharlto Copley (Adrian/the Stranger), Samuel L. Jackson (Chaney), Michael Imperioli (Chucky), Linda Emond (Edwina Burke), James Ransone (Dr. Tom Melby) and Pom Klementieff (Haeng-Bok).