Review: OLDBOY (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review: OLDBOY (2013)

Review: OLDBOY (2013)
A gruesome but shallow remake of Park Chan-Wook's original masterpiece.

When Hollywood was set to remake Park Chan-Wook's South Korean revenge-thriller masterpiece OLDBOY (2003) way back in 2008 with Will Smith and Steven Spielberg attached to the project, I was completely dumbfounded. My first initial question was like: Are they for real? Is that even necessary at all? However, that deal didn't work out and Spike Lee stepped in to direct the remake in 2011. Again, my reaction was more of the same. Not surprisingly, the Hollywood remake of OLDBOY was greeted with little fanfare. In fact, the movie flopped so badly at the US box office and even failed to make it into our local cinemas here.

On the night of 1993, alcoholic advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) finds himself awakens in a windowless and locked room after his brief encounter with a mysterious woman holding a yellow umbrella. Trapped inside the room with no way out whatsoever, his captors occasionally feed him a tray of Chinese food and vodka delivered to him in an opening at the bottom of the door. As the time goes by, he starts losing hope and attempts suicide but failed at the end. Over the next 20 years, he changes his mind and plans his revenge -- starting with all kind of exercises by watching the television program and even quits drinking along the way. When he is finally set free twenty years later, he is determined to locate his now-grown daughter and to seek vengeance against those people who responsible for kidnapping and framing him at the first place.

Visually speaking, director Spike Lee and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt manages to nail the grim atmosphere that characterised the violent nature of the movie.

Acting, in the meantime, is effective. Josh Brolin brings a satisfying level of intensity and remorse to his emotionally-riveting character as Joe Doucett. Elizabeth Olsen provides strong support in her otherwise thankless role as the helpful stranger, Marie. As Chaney, Samuel L. Jackson is entertaining to watch for as the leader of the gang who imprisoned Joe. Sharlto Copley, who proves that he can be so much fun playing despicable bad guy in ELYSIUM, gives another chilling performance as Adrian -- the man who masterminded Joe's imprisonment.

The grisly scene where Chaney gets tortured in the neck by Joe with a paper cutter (I almost winced away watching that scene). And of course, the one-take hallway fight scene involving Joe squaring off against Chaney's thugs.
As good as Samuel L. Jackson is, there's a nagging problem about the way he presented himself as a character. I just can't help it but his blond mohawk and bright-coloured wardrobe feel like he suits better for a comic-book movie... *cough* THE SPIRIT *cough*... than a movie like OLDBOY.

Some of the key elements that made the original OLDBOY so provocatively disturbing are disappointingly toned down in this Hollywood remake. The infamous twist ending is particularly the biggest disappointment of all, especially the way Spike Lee and screenwriter Mark Protosevich choose to end the fate of Joe Douchett in the utmost conventional Hollywood manner (you'll know it when you see it).

While Lee's OLDBOY fails to match the equal success that Park Chan-Wook first envisioned it in the original version, the movie remains a fairly watchable remake.


Anonymous said...

This movie didn't arrived at Malaysian cinemas right?

caseymoviemania said...

Nope, too bad it doesn't. It has been postponed twice already.