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Execution honoring the integrity of the original, while Americanizing it appropriately.
There's a lot to say about Spike Lee's interpretation of the story originally handled by Chan Wook-Park, and this title stands respectably on its own.
To start, if you've not seen the original movie, don't worry, this version has you covered (if you have seen the original, I'll address that later). The art, feel, and intensity of the film carry well with the overall tone of the movie. The story itself is incredibly compelling-and if you're any fan of mystery or revenge films, don't let anyone tell you the plot--it's worth riding it out. The music never seems out of place, and I was unusually impressed with Samuel L Jackson's role in the movie as restrained thug cum businessman. For Josh Brolin's part, he carried his desperate role well--desperation followed by rage, repeat, rinse. Ashley Olson was impeccable. The villain...well, he did OK, but his part seemed a bit forced.
Now for those who have seen the original Oldboy. (Some spoilers!). This movie could NOT have possibly worked in its original format, especially the ending. Cross-cultural differences make far too great a difference. There's no way an American audience would buy Josh Brolin cutting off his own tongue and barking like a dog. The ending had to change, even in the slightest sense.
Many are up upset that this is a remake no one asked for--you're right, nobody asked for it...but there is importance in retelling a great story to an audience in a more approchable way. Stigma has attached itself to foreign movies because of the dreaded subtitle-reading and often bad dubbing (and the original has noticeably poor voice acting in the English dub).
I wouldn't have ever called myself a fan of Spike Lee-I harbor no resentment toward him, and I don't know his body of work as well as most do. Lee handled this piece with respect and, more importantly, gave another life to a story that could never have been told in the U.S. due to its extremely taboo nature.
The movie has legs.
The product placement sucked though, and rarely, the cinematography seemed off--Brolin's pillow companion is an example, with it facing the camera while Brolin faced the wall.
Watch it. Have an open mind. Experience it. Even for the second time.