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.
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.
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)
Running just over 100 minutes, the film is not quite as long as its two-hour-long source material, and considering that it's not quite as bogged down by overtly overstylized storytelling filler, it's arguably not as overlong, although it is still pretty decidedly overlong, especially with a relatively sprawling development segment that was actually not so overdrawn in the original, and is followed by some other draggy points in filler and expendable material. This excess material might be easier to forgive if it was at least more refreshing, and by that, I'm not simply referring to the fat around the plot edges, but to those subtle twists and turns in the original's narrative that end up plummeting into glaring storytelling tropes, while the conventional occasions hit by the original go intensified. The predictability in this story is hardly helped by its being recycled at all, because even though this film puts some ambitious twists to the original's story elements, many of which are worthy, it's impossible to not feel too much of a sense of familiarity when the film gets to be lazy in its recycling of a story that has its own problems to begin with. Among these issues are histrionics, many of which have been toned down in this more Americanized interpretation of Asian melodrama, though not to where you can't call into question a lot of actions committed by and elements to the crafting of the characters, whose questionable attributes in the concept are made all the more glaring by an overwrought interpretation. As with all Spike Lee joins, about as big an issue as anything in this film is the borderline absence of subtlety, not just within the tonally overblown melodramatics, but within overstylization which somehow not quite as overblown as it was in the original, but still overbearing enough to further dilutes substance. If feel that there are a few key things actually done better this time around, but the moments of lesser inspiration tend to really laze out, bringing the final product shy of an already underwhelming original, and pretty decidedly into underwhelmingness by its own right. Like the original, this film could have gone pretty far, but it still goes far enough to endear, and do a degree of justice to an intriguing story concept.
This story concept has always been a little over-the-top, but it's also always been intriguing, with perplexing mysteries and thought-provoking themes on vengeance that this remake seems to want to explore in a different light, less much less focus on revenge, and more focus on redemption. This story retains many of the original's strong elements, and is admittedly stronger in certain places, and no matter how sloppy this interpretation gets, it does deserve some praise, with Mark Protosevich turning in a script that meets excesses and subtlety issues with some well-rounded attributes to characterization, and tight set pieces. Even Spike Lee's direction has its fair share of moments, particularly with a style that is often overwrought, and just as often colorful enough to entertain, particularly during intricately well-staged and brutal action sequences that add a sense of consequence to the dramatics, whose more thoughtful moments are genuinely effective, at least in the drawing of tension. Honestly, outside of style, Lee's direction is mostly pretty lacking, but it's never less than entertaining, and that holds your interest until some reasonably gripping dramatic highlights which might simply be so engaging because of the performances. Lee once again works with a solid cast of respectable talents who don't have much to with, but do what they can to all but, if not ultimately transcend questionable characterization and create some colorful roles, some of the more memorable of which belong to the predictably delightfully over-the-top Samuel L. Jackson, the lovely and subtly emotive Elizabeth Olsen, and the charismatic and often effective, if rather cheesy Sharlto Copley. Of course, the real force in, not simply the film's cast, but in the drama itself is Josh Brolin, who inherits a challenging role that Choi Min-sik set a standard for selling, and is, as shocking as this may sound, expanded upon in this remake, which further explores the lead, in the form of Joe Doucett (I only mention the character's name so that I can shamelessly take you back to the run-on gag of the opener and say, "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that hammer in your hand?"), as a man who is not simply seeking vengeance, but redemption and closure in other ways, for great flaws that are initially drawn seriously heavy-handedly, then, surprisingly, worked through subtly, certainly not through subtle writing, but through a nuanced performance by Brolin that goes above and beyond the call of duty in utilizing powerful dramatic highlights and near-transformative layers in order to mold a genuinely compelling protagonist, as well as, of all things, a truly revelatory performance for Brolin. Brolin's material is not consistent enough to make one of the best lead performances of the year, but if you see this film for nothing else, see it for Brolin's perhaps unfittingly inspired performance, for it's not as though the other film has much which is that effective to offer, which isn't to say that style and storytelling don't carry enough intrigue to make this a reasonably fair thriller, for all its many shortcomings.
All in all, the film takes a little too long to tell a formulaic and histrionic story with a wealth of subtlety lapses, and a certain placement of style over substance that reflects a laziness which secure the final product as underwhelming, yet still fair, thanks to an intriguing story concept's being done enough justice by some nifty scripting twists, lively direction and strong acting - especially by a surprisingly outstanding Josh Brolin - to make Spike Lee's "Oldboy" a reasonably worthy remake and engaging thriller by its own right, despite its falling a ways short of what it could have been.
2.5/5 - Fair