OLDBOY (2013) [Review]: Hardly spreads the Holiday Cheer.

The Internet erupted into a ball of rage when it was announced Spike Lee was remaking Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy. As someone who didn’t care much for other remakes of foreign films, I could understand the fall out. Let us not forget how forgettable Matt Reeves’s remake of Let the Right One In was (Let Me In? No.) and David Fincher’s depiction of Girl with a Dragon Tattoo wasn’t much different from the Swedish version, which starred Noomi Rapace. Speaking of Rapace, can we settle this right here and now? Her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander was much more badass than Rooney Mara who was clearly mimicking Rapace in the first place.

Frankly, this film-loving prioress could go on and on about Dragon Tattoo and how I felt Fincher’s film wasn’t nearly as haunting or mysterious. But, that’s not what this holiday write-up is about. This review is about Oldboy and whether or not it stunk like last year’s Turkey dinner.

Welp, I’m here to testify.. that in comparison to the original, ya ‘boy is indeed leaky, slimy and should be quickly taken off the market.

I want a Mister Socko, too!

Fans of the 2003 feature will no doubtly be annoyed by some of the changes, yet at the same time find a bit of solace knowing the overall plot hasn’t changed all that much. But right from jump, the first difference is the length of the protaganist’s imprisonment. In Spike Lee’s version, Joe (Josh Brolin) is locked away for twenty years, where as Dae-Su (Min-sik) was confined for fifteen. To be fair, that change didn’t bother me too much.

So, let’s get to what did: Lee’s decision to drop the narration. By choosing to do away with the voiceover, we don’t get the chance to get inside Joe’s head, nor do we fully comprehend how truly insane he becomes while in captivity. I mean, you’d go nuts too if you were forced to eat dumplings for 20-years straight.

When Joe is finally set free, we witness a cue taken from the classic Oldboy with Josh Brolin spilling out of the trademark trunk. Shortly thereafter, his quest begins to find the very person who locked him up in the first place.

And this is where the film really started to lose me.

Hey, it worked for Thor.

Oldboy is based from the manga written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi. I mention this, because what director Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung achieved was a stylized thriller that harkened back to the source. While sitting through Lee’s film, everything was so out of sorts, it felt as if he chucked the manga — along with Chan-wook’s masterpiece — out the window.

But Lee wasn’t all together clueless. The epic hammer fight scene is in the film, as it wouldn’t be Oldboy without it. What Lee shot was sad in comparison, however. Come to think of it, this “new” Oldboy is pretty lifeless. Have you ever heard that term describe an ultra violent film before?

Maybe only in the case where zombies are forced to eat each other.

I WAS undefeated in “Casket Matches”…

Even if the end result isn’t exactly a blockbuster, you still gotta give Spike some credit for doing something a little different. This isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the original. Gone is the stomach-churning squid sequence, and the torture scenes weren’t as brutal this time around.. even if they were still bad enough for me to cover my eyes. But, if you’ve already convinced yourself enough that you’ve got to see this, please at least matinée at your own risk.

Which makes me feel for the talent involved. Almost-”Batlin” delivered (hey, beats the term “Broman”, but not quite “Batfleck”), as did the recently announced “Scarlet Witch” (for Avengers 2), Elizabeth Olsen, as a nurse who helps Joe find his abductor. Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) was strong as well, albeit a bit too cartoonish. Yet, the standout for this Sister was French actress Pom Klementieff . She doesn’t have a single word of dialogue in the film, yet somehow leaves a lasting impression.

So, what’s my verdict, congregation? Easy. Don’t waste your holiday money. Spike’s offered far better entertainment through his courtside antics during Knicks games. Come to think of it, what was FilmDistrict drinking/thinking releasing such a violent film Thanksgiving week?


1.5 (out of 5) Bibles.

Sister Sherice is a “Jane of All Trades”. She’s an artist, writer, actress and all around know-it-all. A lover of sci-fi, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is one of her favorite films and as fate would have it, she worked on J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” as a Starfleet cadet. “Doctor Who” is a series she cannot do without and when she’s not traveling through time and space, she’s studying transfiguration at Hogwarts. Follow @Sherice.

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