Oldboy - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Oldboy Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 6, 2013
I haven't seen the Korean original, but what I saw here was a plot driven sonuvagun that takes no prisoners (whatever fans of the original might spout). Josh Brolin is the best I've ever seen him in this tale of revenge, and revenge again, that's rough to watch unless you were born in a prison, and maybe even if you were. Sharlto Copley is making a career playing bad guys, but at least this one has a rationale going for him which is well played. And Samuel L. Jackson ... what need be said?
Super Reviewer
½ May 19, 2015
Josh Brolin is an extremely bad choice for the role of the protagonist. Besides, the execution is too weak, and is bound to disappoint regardless of having already watched the original or not.
Super Reviewer
½ November 1, 2014
Perhaps those are problems created by the heavy editing of Lee's cut, but this unnecessary and watered-down remake not only doesn't add anything new to the exceptional Korean film but is also full of plot holes and makes its jaw-dropping twist in the end seem only ludicrous.
Super Reviewer
½ December 2, 2012
An intensely riveting and mind-blowing first-rate edge of your seat thriller. A truly serious knockout of a thrill-machine. It hits you harder than a punch, but like a sledge-hammer to the gut and even then it's still not finished with you. A wickedly entertaining and viciously compelling ride that is truly a must-see. It's provocative, stylish and pulse-pounding every step of the way. A brilliant and darkly poetic re-interpretation to the classic Korean picture. A heart-piercing and mind-shattering masterpiece. Director, Spike Lee crafts one of his best films in years, he takes an entirely different direction and shows great tribute to the original but makes his own film entirely that is nearly more shocking and satisfying. A bold, bloody and brilliant movie. It's awesome and sadistically spectacular. A blistering, action-packed and compelling. It totally grabs you. Josh Brolin is sensational, he gives one of his best performances. Sharlto Copley is outstanding, he is perfectly menacing. It keeps your heart racing with non-stop suspense and brings a devastatingly dark twist at the end but has it in a strangely satisfying way. An unforgettable classic revenge tale.
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2014
Park Chan Wook's 2004 Korean original of "Oldboy" is one of the most visceral and emotionally devastating thrillers that you're ever likely to find. As a result, it totally baffled me when I heard about the intentions for an English language remake. I don't care how much of an impressive cast or crew were assembled, as far as I see it, there really isn't anything else that could have been brought to treading this ground again. Now that I've seen Spike Lee's version, I stand by that even more. This was a completely pointless exercise.

Estranged husband and father Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is on a downward spiral with his alcohol problem. One drunken night he's kidnapped from the streets and wakes up in a locked room with no windows and no means of communication. He's held here without explanation, while on the outside he's framed for the murder of his ex-wife. After 20 years in this locked room, heā??s suddenly released and sets about finding out the truth and why he was held in the the first place.

I'll start with the (very few) positives this film has to offer and that simply comes down to Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen. They are both on particularly fine form and give this misguided endeavour more than it actually deserves. The same can't be said for the villains of the piece, though. Normally, the nasties are the one's that stand out in a film of this type but in this case, it's them that suffer the most in their caricature roles; Jackson is his usual, reliable self and (with that idiosyncratic tone of his) can make even the worst of dialogue work for him. He adds a requisite sprinkle of menace but he's so elaborately overdressed that he looks like he's just there to do a little turn on the catwalk. Copley, on the other hand, I feel both sorry and embarrassed for. He's even more ridiculous. His accent and histrionics are so laughably bad and completely misplaced that he looks like he's wandered in from a child's pantomime. The only thing missing was an audience taking great delight in booing or hissing him off the stage. If Copley doesn't get his act together soon, he'll fade into obscurity and his wonderful work in "District 9" will be a thing of the past.

The film itself looks the part, though, and Spike Lee almost gives the impression that he knows what he's doing by capturing a suitably grim and foreboding atmosphere. However, it's ultimately the script that lets everyone down here. It's practically a scene-for-scene remake of the original (well, the good bits at least) but the changes that they do make to the story don't improve it in the slightest. It really is perplexing why they would've even went to the bother and why such an acclaimed director and cast would put their reputations at stake.

The scene that stood out for me was the ridiculous hallway fight (where Lee is obviously trying to emulate Park's impressive handling of a similar one-take scene from the original). Here, Brolin takes on an abundance of adversaries and it's obvious how badly choreographed it is. His opponents are absolutely nowhere near him as they swipe the air with pieces of plywood while our man sets about them with his claw hammer. It's was around this point that I gave up on the whole affair, as it was apparent that the filmmakers were putting as much of an effort into the film as I am this review.

With almost ten years between them, I can only assume that Hollywood thought that this was ripe for a remake. It's not! Granted, it might work a lot better for those that are unfamiliar with the original but for others, it's pretty much a guarantee that it won't. If it does appeal to those that are already versed in Park's sublime original, then I'll eat my claw hammer with a live Octopi chaser.

Mark Walker
Super Reviewer
½ December 2, 2013
An inferior remake of a cult classic film, Spike Lee's new version of Oldboy suffers from uneven performances and a lack of direction. I felt like the film was meandering around. Spike Lee threw everything at this to see if it would stick, and while some of it does, other parts do not. The action is terrible. The infamous scene from the original was the fight in the hallways and it is reduced to a comically bad scene where all of the bad guys don't move at all and Josh Brolin gets to them one by one. I did like Elizabeth Olsen in this, but Josh Brolin I felt was miscast. This doesn't pack the punch the original did, but it can be fairly entertaining in a so bad it is good kind of way. I was entertained, but certainly not engaged or thrilled. Go watch the superior foreign film, unless you really like Elizabeth Olsen and want to see the goods.
Super Reviewer
December 3, 2013
Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free.

Not a bad Film! From Spike Lee we could expect a truly mesmerizing movie or a very weak one. And in this case I say that this one is not so bad. It's a disappointing movie, but not a bad movie. It focuses too much in blood and gory instead of the script and the complexity of the characters and situations. The ending can be a bit upsetting for some viewers. Josh Brolin is one of the better things of this version. His performance is as good as he always do his roles. The rest of the cast is between average or good. Nothing remarkable under my watch. This "Oldboy" is not a brilliant movie or a powerful remake but it's an entertaining one. It's weird and bloody. Be prepared for that.

An advertising executive is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his punishment, only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.
Super Reviewer
½ February 20, 2014
This remake of the amazing original actually holds up, until it gets to the first scene with Sharlto Copley. That's when it falls apart, creating a movie that wishes it were as shocking & original as the well, er... original. I'd recommend it if you're fascinated in seeing Spike Lee's version of Oldboy. Otherwise, just stick to the first one.
Super Reviewer
February 17, 2014
First, about 5 years ago I watched the original Asian movie and it's one of the most twisted movies you can over watch. So naturally I had to see the American remake. Wanted to see it in the theater pretty bad, but it didn't play anywhere near us so I wasn't able to. I had a lot of concerns about this, because I didn't think Spike Lee(the director) had the balls to do what was done in the original. Well, I'm happy to say other than two scenes(which should have been in this), he does a very good job of remaking it, and has more balls than I previously thought. I'd say the ending is why this wasn't playing around me, because it's pretty controversial, especially for Americans. For those that don't know it's about a guy(Josh Brolin) who gets kidnapped and imprisoned for 20 years, then is let go. He needs to figure out who imprisoned him, why he was imprisoned, and more importantly, why he was let go. Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, and Samuel L. Jackson round out the cast. Copley is absolutely awesome as the villain. He is so damn creepy. Brolin does fantastic, I mean the whole cast is great really. The action is good. It's still pretty violent, and very twisted. This definitely isn't for everyone. Not by a long shot. But, if you want something dark and crazy, then this is your movie! Check it out.
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2013
Chan-Wook Park's Oldboy is one of the most stunning, visceral, raw, gritty revenge thrillers that have ever been put before a viewing audience. Obviously a remake was in question because the original film was far too good. Director Spike Lee directs this film, and the result is yet another pointless remake that makes you again question why do they keep making these rehash that simply don't work. Oldboy is a horrible film with poor direction from a director who's way past his prime. For me, there is no substance here and it's a film that tries too hard at making a statement. The original Oldboy is a stunning picture, one that did not to be remade. Spike Lee yet again fails to capture the story that he has, and I find him to be a very self righteous director that thinks too highly of himself, and that is mostly presented in his work. With Oldboy, he fails to capture, the vibe, feel and ultimately realism that made Park's work such a memorable, and unforgettable cinematic outing. If you loved the original film, skip out on this, it's not worth your time. Josh Brolin is interesting in his role, but the vibe of the movie just didn't deliver, and Spike Lee's version of Oldboy just fails to really grab your attention. Lee made a few good films in career such as Malcolm X, Summer of Sam and Inside Man, but overall his work is questionable. Having him direct this adaptation of the American version of Oldboy may not have been the smartest move. He's a director that needs to call it quits. With this bland remake, it only adds strength to that statement. I found this film to lack anything that Chan-Wook Park's film such a terrific movie. This version feels poorly done and every element presented before us just fails to really entertain. Skip this dreadful remake, and watch the original instead, you'll be glad you did.
Super Reviewer
½ December 2, 2013
Spike Lee's remake of Park Chan Wook's visceral 2003 thriller is at an immediate disadvantage because frankly, there's no reason for it to exist. The Korean original is an outstanding film that is already perfectly accessible to American audiences. Lee does nothing to improve upon the original or really make it his own, as the film has entirely the same tone and aesthetics of the original. All the actors, Brolin, Copley, and Olsen, give good performances, but save yourself the trouble and just catch the original on Netflix to experience this fantastic blood-soaked revenge tale.
Super Reviewer
December 1, 2013
'Oldboy' (2013). Quite simply, I wonder why Spike Lee bothered. The deviations aren't for the better. At least I got to swoon over Ms. Olsen.
zach l.
Super Reviewer
½ October 24, 2013
Gruesome, erie, and provocative Oldboy tells a story like no other. Almost nothing like the original, yet still a solid and interesting movie from Director Spike Lee.
Super Reviewer
½ July 14, 2014
In the hands of the "Thor" screenwriter and the curiously disengaged Spike Lee, the Korean revenge classic becomes what could have been Steven Seagal's best movie ever. If you think this sounds like a backhanded compliment, you're right.
Super Reviewer
December 21, 2013
Oldboy has it's moments, most of them in the last 30 minutes, but there are so many things about it that are just so genuinely awful that it's hard to get behind the movie as a whole. Also I don't like Josh Brolin. I just don't. So there it is. Meh.
Super Reviewer
½ December 7, 2013
Park Chan-Wook's original caused quite a stir upon its release a decade ago, thanks mainly to three memorably disturbing moments: a savagely brutal one-take fight, a queasy final plot twist and the eating of a live octopus. It probably says a lot about western sensibilities that it's the latter of the three that has been excised from Lee's remake. The other two moments remain but are handled, like every element of the film, in clumsy fashion.

The extended one-take fight suffers here from bland and unconvincing choreography. The stock villains employ that groan inducing tactic of attacking Brolin one by one rather than overpowering him with a mass attack and the CG effects snap you out of the moment. Seriously, are there no stuntmen anymore in America?
The film features that rarity, a sex scene that manages to be integral to the plot. Unlike the lengthy and graphic couplings of Blue is the Warmest Colour, which added little to the story, the sex scene here is the most pivotal moment in Oldboy's plot but it's glossed over like an afterthought. I can't think of a sex scene so important in terms of a film's narrative since 1984's Terminator and this should be the most passionate and graphic sex scene in Hollywood's prudish history. Lee and screenwriter Mark Protosevich, who seems particularly clueless when it comes to showing rather than telling, fail in the crucial task of selling the relationship between Brolin and Olsen, a young voluntary nurse who accompanies him on his quest for revenge and retribution. The sex scene seems to comes out of nowhere and simply isn't believable.

Someone needs to explain the aging process to Lee. At the movie's beginning, Brolin appears to be roughly 40 but upon his release 20 years later he doesn't seem to have aged a day. The same goes for the rest of the characters. This is indicative of the general lack of attention and care put into this cash-in production. Lee has said his film isn't a remake of Park Chan-Wook's, rather a reinterpretation of the source Manga comic. Odd then how much of the Korean auteur's style he attempts, and fails, to replicate.
(Review by Eric Hillis)
Super Reviewer
½ April 24, 2014
Ever since the success of the Grudge, 10 years ago, American filmmakers have been looking to popular overseas films for original ideas, many times simply remaking them. To many, this seems like a desperation move for original material, but I see it more as a cultural thing. Movies often reflect the society of the country they were made in, and by remaking them in the United States, the story introduces movie lovers to something unique, from a different culture. I personally find this very desirable and have appreciated many of these remakes, even when I didn't love the story. In his latest venture, Spike Lee takes on the Korean classic, Oldboy. This is a film that was remade simply because of how bizarre and shocking the story is. The year is 1993, and Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) isn't a great guy. For some reason, he's drugged and then locked away in a pretty decent looking room without doors or windows, and held there for exactly 20 years. Then, just as suddenly as he was imprisoned, he was released, and goes on a search for answers, in this seemingly new world. Josh Brolin stars and is usually pretty good as an ancillary character, but as the star of a thriller, I was skeptical. As always, he could have shown some more emotion, but he was much better than I thought he'd be. Spike Lee gives him as much help as he can, by giving him a huge cast of supporting actors, all of whom had name recognition. In particular, Samuel L. Jackson playing a psychopath, was very funny, and definitely injected some much needed humor. Oldboy is one of those films where it all comes down to the ending. If you're unfamiliar with the story, I won't say anything other than to tell you, that it is bizarre and twisted, with an ending the likes of which you couldn't possibly have imagined. Even if you start to watch this film and don't really like it, stick with it, because the ending really is that good.
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