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Oldboy Remake - Spike Lee directs Josh Brolin

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Watched the original this week (it's on the US Netflix) and really enjoyed it. I thought the twist was great but managed to guess it just before the film officially revealed it. I think before he opens the album it all points towards that anyway though so guessing it isn't really an achievement. I did however say

"I bet that's his daughter" when he firsts meets her in the restaurant. Mainly just because of their reactions to each other. I quickly changed my mind on that though but didn't realise till the reveal that I was actually right

Anyway, now I've seen it, it'll be interesting to see this but from what I gather, the people who have seen it are saying it's pretty terrible. Standing at a 4.1 on IMDB.

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Apparently this isn't a remake but a imagining of the Manga the original Old Boy film was based on.

Still, that doesn't excuse that fact that this looks shit.

That isn't true at all, even though that was how it was spun when it was announced. They don't even mention the manga in the credits apparently.

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  • 2 months later...

Out of curiosity I watched this, its not a patch on the original which I sort of expected but it was passable. It was interesting to how see how they interpreted certain scenes, and there's nice nods to the original but it wasn't terrible and I sort of liked the ending better.

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Oldboy (2013) - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1321511/

Obsessed with vengeance, a man sets out to find out why he was kidnapped and locked into solitary confinement for 20 years without reason.

Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' is so utterly neutered and plain that it makes me wish that the inital proposal for the Hollywood remake - that it star Will Smith and be directed by Steven Spielberg - had been realised, as at least that would have been interesting to watch; instead, we get a very thin and pale retread of the original that doesn't bring anything new to the table and fails to entertain in it's own right.

Brolin is great at the start of the film as the kind of asshole who you want to see get his comeuppance but he never really convinces once he's released from his twenty year imprisonment; he's frankly not insane enough for a man whose been put through what he has. Although he escalates into ultra-violence alsmost immediately*, he never truly appears dangerous, despite Brolin clearly putting the hours in at the gym to transform himself into a scowling hulk**. Also, good but poorly served by the script is Elizabeth Olsen. Her character does little but shuttle Brolin from A to B but she does well to realise a damaged young women with limited screentime.

Doing far from good work is Samuel L. Jackson, clearly phoning in his performance with most of his mind on the golf course but even he is outshown by how bad a performance Sharlto Copely gives. Saddled with an atrocious English (?) accent and looking like an extra from 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', his character is meant to be some kind of super-elaborate master villain (that's no spoiler by the way, it's clear he's the bad guy from the get go) but it just never works. He's so hammy and OTT that even when he's literally explaining his motivations you don't believe him. Copley can give great performances but you don't get one here.

All of these faults lie with the director, Spike Lee, who is utterly transparent in this film. There is not one shot, one line of dialogue, one ounce of wit that you would associate with a Spike Lee film other than a fleeting reference to Hurricane Katrina. Even a film such as 'Inside Man' which was well outside his wheelhouse, contained some sense of his personality. Here, it is completely gone; this film could have been made by anyone.

The two standout scenes of the original 'Oldboy'*** was the single-take hammer fight in the corridor and the "twist" ending. Both have been replicated in this version but like all else here, fail. The hammer fight is beefed up by taking place over two levels rather than a single corridor and it is done in one take and the choreography is impressive but that is half the problem - it looks like a dance rather than a fight. The bad guys rush in, dressed in weird, 90's street clothes and circle Brolin like they're going to have a dance off, waving their arms around and hopping from side to side, instead of the mad, scramble pile-on of the original. The ending is also beefed up, with Copley giving Brolin a walking tour of his "plot", which stretches out the reveal and renders it's impact mute. Copley's own backstory gets expanded and is shot in a very weird and artifical way, which is presumably what Lee intended and which perhaps explains Copley's performance. It's so bad that I found it funny, when as an viewer I'm clearly meant to be horrified.

That's the overall problem with this remake; it's just not horrifying enough. It's possibly one of the darkest stories put on screen, with no happy ending, just more pain for everyone but the film spectacuarly fails to convey this. I don't think the original is a particular masterpiece but it's leagues above this film.

I'd rate 'Oldboy (2013)' a very poor, one and a half out of five.

*One thing I've seen bandied about as a critiscism is how Brolin becomes proficient at fighting by watching Kung-Fu films during his captivity. On the surface, yeah, that is laughable but I don't remember it being a point of contention in the original, where it plays out the same way; was it more acceptable because O-Dae Su was Asian? So racist.

**I've talked at length before about the character of Parker, Donald Westlake's career criminal, who's been portrayed on screen many times, by actors such as Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, Mel Gibson and (sigh) Jason Statham. He's my favourite literary creation and he's never been done right onscreen; while watching this I constantly kept thinking how Brolin would be perfect for the role. He's got the look down pat and the blank, slab of grantite face. THE CAMPAIGN STARTS HERE.

***Excluding the live octopus eating of course, although there is a scene in this where Brolin looks at one in a fishtank so that you can think to yourself "Oh yeah, I watched a better film than this once; what the fuck am I doing with my life?."

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