Never has a film stuck with me on the level as Chan-Wook Park’s 2003′ s Oldboy. Almost every single minute of the gruesome tale is even sicker than the last, yet through it all, the entire finished product is a brilliant addition to the vengeance genre. So when someone overseas creates a masterpiece, what do we in the United States? That’s right! Attempt to remake it.
This is exactly what Spike Lee has been working on for the last year, and apparently someone has seen a screening of a rough cut of the finished product. The film stars Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), and Sharlto Copley (District 9).
Here is a current synopsis of the Spike Lee remake of Oldboy:
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.
Note that some of the details reveal specific Major SPOILERS about the old film. So if you don’t want to ruin the great experience, skip the section, and read the final blurb and my reaction towards the bottom. Here is what Joblo heard about the remake…
Brolin’s performance as Joe (Oh dae-su from the original), in my opinion, can be paralleled to the anti-heroics of Walter White in Breaking Bad: you feel for him, you root for him, but that does not make him a good guy. The exposition of Joe in the beginning of the film does a bit of show and a bit of tell and does the right job of showing how much of a dirtbag he is. That way, when he gets abducted and imprisoned, you say to yourself, “the dick deserves it.” This version follows Joe a little more closely during his captivity (which is for twenty years, rather than the original’s fifteen). Brolin is at his best here as your heart breaks for him and you want desperately for his mental torture and anguish to be over.
Sounds like we’re going to dislike the main character a bit more, which is alright by me. Interesting to hear Lee chose this route. He then gives his reaction to Sharlto Copley’s performance by saying…
When he came on screen, I couldn’t even recognize him. He honestly blew me away with how good he was. You can tell that he’s having a great time playing a bad guy and loves to be the cat toying with a mouse right before he eats it. He comes across as someone who has immense pity for Joe while taking satisfaction from watching him squirm.
Sharlto Copley is one of the most undervalued actors right now and I can totally see him chewing this role up. When I heard he was taking on the villain character, I honestly could not think of a better actor to do it. I’m pretty excited to see this. When discussing Elizabeth Olsen’s role, the reaction was less enthused.
While both her and Copely are in supporting roles, Copely clearly got the meatier part and owns it better. I was a fan of Olsen’s performance, and she gave the character a good amount of depth, she didn’t blow me away nearly as much as Copely or Brolin did. However, I will say that it left me wanting more and I wish that she was given more to her backstory.
The anonymous reaction then delves into the technical aspects of the film. First bringing up specific changes, film pacing, and cuts to the film.
There are only minor changes, with stuff like the prison sequence being longer and some tweaks to the ending. It’s not shot for shot by any means either, so if you see it, you should definitely expect things to be different and to cringe all over again. In terms of pacing, again, this was a rough cut, but at a little over two hours, it mostly moved along at the right pace. There was some stuff transitioning from act two to three that could be cut and maybe some stuff from the beginning. In the end (and this should be viewed at positively), I felt like I was in the theatre for two hours and was perfectly content with that.
Then they discuss the score and tone Spike Lee executes in the remake by saying…
I think it’s safe to say that Spike Lee has a certain feel to his movies. In this, though, you can tell it’s not something that is of his own volition. However, is fingerprints are all over this flick. Even if you didn’t know that he directed the movie, the soundtrack, cinematography, vibe and feel of the movie scream Spike Lee. It’s a great touch that I haven’t seen in his other recent movies, like Inside Man. The score, while you can tell isSpike Lee-esque, is one of the only things that bothered me. In some scenes, it perfectly reflected what was going on on screen. In others, there was no score. While that may work for some scenes (like the Batman vs. Bane fight in TDKR), it didn’t work in these. The parts of the film that are tense would be even more thrilling with the right music behind it.
It”s hard to imagine Spike Lee’s signature on Oldboy but the way this individual discusses it has me intrigued. When talking about the differences in violence between old and new versions, they saay…
Don’t worry, this is going to be rated R. Much like the original, acts two and three are very sadistic and “wrong.” The violence hasn’t been downplayed even a little bit as its just as sick and twisted as the original. If I had to summarize the violence in three words, they would bloody, gratuitous and hammer.
The hammer part cracks me up but damn does it get me pumped. I can’t wait to see the famous hammer sequence. When discussing the “Hallway fight” and the infamous finale– SPOILER WARNING– They tell JoBlo…
While they are basically the same across both versions, they do have some similarities. Rather than a fight down a long hallway, Joe is tasked with fighting guys down hallways across three floors. Some people in the screening found issue with this, but personally, I loved it. It was ridiculous and over the top in all the best ways. Would it hurt to have it trimmed? No. Would it be the end of the world to leave it as is? Absolutely not.
The ending is even more incestuous than the original. The “big twist?” Still in there as is. However, the villain’s character…let’s just say the best thing about incest is that it’s the game the whole family can play! The last few minutes differ greatly from the Korean film in a way that I feel fits this version very well. I don’t want to give away too much, but to me, it almost makes more sense than the original’s ending.
Finally they wrap up their final thoughts on the remake as a whole.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and I can’t wait to see the final version of it in theatres. Even after seeing the original, I could say that I like them equally as much. The acting, story, and action all outweigh the negatives of the film, which can (and hopefully will be) fixed up before the final cut‘s release. I’ll give it an 8/10. And, as a quick note, the film was presented without a title, so we might have to start referring to it as something else sometime soon.
Overall, this is great news for people who were pissed about this film being remade. That being said, keep in mind, this is only one individual’s reaction to a rough cut and October is still far away. A lot can be screwed up or improved upon until then. For now, we have at least one promising reaction to the new version of Oldboy, which for the record, better stay as the title dammit.
Spike Lee’s Oldby hits theaters October 11th!