Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review: Oldboy

Image courtesy of FilmDistrict.
Spike Lee's remake of Chan-wook Park's "Oldboy," which is itself an adaptation of Nobuaki Minegeshi's manga, is far from being a bad film, but it has little reason to exist.

I'm generally wary of remakes. But while I liked Park's gruesome 2003 film, I'm not as beholden to it as some. So, while I can't say that the film necessarily needed to be remade, I was curious to see what Lee would do with the material.

Strangely, the director has pretty much made a scene-for-scene remake with the exception of a lack of live squid eating and a slightly different ending.

But this is not to say that this new version is without its pleasures, if that's the right word. Lee manages to nearly up the ante during the insane hammer attack sequence that was so memorable from Park's original. And another scene during which Josh Brolin's Joe Doucett fends off a couple of football players is shocking and out of the blue.

Then, on the other hand, there are some drawbacks. For starters, the opening scenes establish Doucett as a douchebag to an over-the-top extent. And the portrayals of film's villains, especially the mysterious figure at its center played by Sharlto Copley, verge on the ludicrous.

For those unaware of the story, "Oldboy" follows the tale of a lout who is imprisoned in a hotel room for two decades by an unknown figure whom he slighted years before. Upon release, he aims to track down his kidnapper and enact revenge. Of course, there are plot twists galore, one of which is rather grim.

Similar to Park's original, I was a bit let down by the eventual explanation of why Doucett has been imprisoned. I preferred both films as Kafka-esque exercises, rather than bloody revenge fantasies.

Lee's "Oldboy" impresses visually and the cast does its best with the material, but it is ultimately an average remake of a good - but, perhaps, not great - cult film.

1 comment:

  1. Good review Nathan. While the original is still better, this remake definitely takes some steps and risks that I didn't expect it to go through with. Yet, ultimately left me a bit more satisfied than other remakes.