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. Written by
Simply put, some movies should never be remade. "Oldboy" serves as a stark reminder with only a few exceptions: Americanized remakes of beloved and admired foreign films inevitably result in disappointment. For viewers unfamiliar with the history behind Spike Lee's "Oldboy," the 2013 film is a remake of the cult-classic 2003 South Korean film of the same name, directed by Chan-wook Park. The Korean masterpiece possess a highly stylized, gritty sensibility while providing an emotional depth to its characters. Iconic director Spike Lee's "Oldboy" is as a handsomely shot piece of genre entertainment, but it fails in its attempt to define itself, resulting into a completely pointless, watered-down underwhelming thriller.
An alcoholic whose life is falling apart, Joe (Josh Brolin) is far from the ideal father who is willfully neglecting his three-year-old daughter, Mia. Drugged and kidnapped one night, Joe awakens in a small room with a television, only to learn that he's been framed for the murder of his ex-wife, and will spend the next 20 years trapped in this cell where he is held as a prisoner. During the duration of his imprisonment, he trains his mind and body for escape attempts while pouring his heart out to Mia in letters. After two decades of torment, Joe is suddenly set free, seeking out an old friend Chucky (Michael Imperioli), and meeting Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), an advocate for the homeless who helps him in his cause. Hunting for the individual who locked him away, Joe spares no one as he works his way to Adrian (Sharlto Copley), a deranged man masterminding the mystery Joe and Marie are now determined to solve.
Director Spike Lee, working from a screenplay by Mark Protosevich "I Am Legend" (2007), chooses to simply rehash the plot for his American remake, and quickly rushes through the unusual and unique storyline unable to establish an emotional connection with the audience which the original film develops so well. Lee's picture clocks in at a lean 104 minutes, 16 minutes shorter than Park's "Oldboy." As a result, the storytelling is rather straightforward, and it forces Lee to rush through crucial sequences which are not given the adequate time to develop. Subtly goes by the waste side, and almost abandoned completely early into the third act in favor of expeditious explanations.
The remake remains largely faithful to the story of the 2003 effort, but seriously lacks in intensity and a sense of meaning. The original film achieves a sublime blending of ultra-violence with extreme art, while the remake feels bogged down in its copycat status, and its overall lighter tone hampers its enigmatic, disconcerting story of revenge. My advice is to avoid this altogether, pull up the original on Netflix, and deal with the subtitles America.
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