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Blu-ray Review: 'Oldboy (2013)'

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The Film:

Of all the films in all the world, “Oldboy” was somewhere near the top of the list of ones that really didn’t need a remake. Park Chan-wook’s 2003 classic, which was based off a Japanese manga, is beloved by millions of people and is seen as a great mystery/revenge thriller, so what could Spike Lee possibly add to an English-language remake that would make the entire endeavor worthwhile? It’s a question that lingered ever since the project was announced, and as it turns out, the answer was the same as it was suspected to be back then: not a whole lot.

This new version follows Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), a man who is mysteriously kidnapped in 1993 and forced to stay in the same room for 20 years without knowing why. During his confinement, he is framed for the murder of his ex-wife, and throughout the years, he is able to see what his only daughter looks like through a recurring murder investigation program on television. Then one day, he is suddenly released. As you would expect, he immediately sets out to investigate who would do this to him and why, but it doesn’t take long for the person (Sharlto Copley) to reveal himself.

The problem comes in trying to figure out who they are and what Joe did to them that would cause them to imprison him for 20 years. This mysterious person gives Joe a most unusual offer: figure out the mystery to save his daughter, and receive a fortune in diamonds and a hand-written confession for the murder of his wife. With the clock ticking, Joe enlists the help of an old friend, Chucky (Michael Imperioli), and a caring doctor, Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), in hopes of solving this puzzle from his past.

It’s not that Spike Lee’s attempt at a remake is particularly bad, though it does have a few issues, it’s just that it’s an entirely unnecessary one. As I’ve said time and time again, when someone sets out to do a remake of a film, it’s usually because they’re going to do something new with it, perhaps throw a few curveballs in there to give the audience something they won’t be expecting, but Lee plays it safe the entire time by following the original almost beat for beat, right down to the dumplings and his own take on the infamous hammer fight.

As for the telling of the events in this version, it’s a somewhat bland take on it, but the biggest issue comes with its telling of the climactic conclusion. In the original film, this was told with a great deal of emotional impact, but here, it doesn’t get nearly the same response, and it’s not just because a certain someone gets to keep their tongue. Nor is it because most people already know exactly what’s coming, but rather it’s because it feels somewhat forced on the part of Josh Brolin. Much of the film rides on this scene, but his performance just doesn’t capture the right notes for it, basically deflating the emotional impact of the reveal.

Overall, this is just a remake that we really didn’t need, nor is it one that anyone asked for. With it being so incredibly similar to the original, one has to wonder what Spike Lee was thinking when taking on such a project. He must have been aware that Park Chan-wook’s film has a legion of fans that would balk at an attempted remake, so why bother copying what’s already been done well? Given that Lee’s last two films were not received well, perhaps this was just a desperate attempt to grab on to something popular. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work.

Video/Audio:

“Oldboy” come to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture remains perfectly clear and sharp throughout the entire presentation with no noticeable signs of fuzziness. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise fantastic, giving you a crystal-clear experience for all sounds. The film may not have been worth it, but it’s still been given just about the best possible treatment you could ask for.

Special Features:

The Making of Oldboy: A decent look behind the scenes at the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew. Worth taking a look at.

Alternate & Extended Scenes: A large selection of chunks of the film that didn’t quite make it into the final cut. There’s nothing here that’s particularly worth taking a look at as they were pretty much cut because they were entirely unnecessary.

Transformation, Talking Heads, and Workout Video: Three pointless inclusions, the first two of which are about four minutes total of clips from the film and tiny snippets of interviews, while the third is less than a minute of footage taken directly from the film. All three are easily skipable.

Conclusion:

With only one extra worth a watch and a film that just can’t measure up to its predecessor or stand particularly well on its own, this release of the “Oldboy” remake just isn’t recommendable. Spike Lee has put together a pointless remake that is nothing but a pale imitation of what came before. If you want to see this film done right, then all you have to do is go back and rewatch the 2003 original, where you’ll find that there’s just no comparison.

Score: 3/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Gravity, Mr. Nobody, The Americans: Season One, Hellbenders, Rocky: Heavyweight Collection, Chicago: Diamond Edition, All is Lost, Austenland, How I Live Now, Night of the Demons, Witchboard, Dallas Buyers Club, The Fifth Estate, Captain Phillips, You're Next, A Single Shot, Insidious: Chapter 2, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Now playing in theaters: Pompeii, Labor Day, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Also be sure to check out my lists of the Best and Worst Films of 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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