Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars
Rated R for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity, and language
Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
Before I begin: It is nearly impossible to write a review of this version of “Oldboy” without making comparisons to the original. So, if you’re looking for a critique which focuses solely on 2013’s “Oldboy”, look elsewhere.
Now, for my review:
Why was this film made?! What was the point?! Controversial director Spike Lee spearheads this remake of Chan-wook Park’s adored 2003 Korean future classic, about a man who, after having been locked away for 15 years (this time it’s 20) is bent on revenge; but Lee does it in the most forgettable way possible. Yes, Lee has retained the unapologetically gruesome and morbid atmosphere which made the original so shocking (in fact, this version is even bloodier). But as far as tone, story structure and character development is concerned, there was definitely something lost in translation; since much of this plot comes off as stiff, overly coincidental, convoluted, riddled with strange continuity errors and all around too outlandish for words. And while I do realize that the original (which I loved) is weird, overly coincidental and takes a while to get to the point, I need my outlandish over-the-topness laced with some kind of style. And shockingly, Lee bring little to no relevant style to the table.
The Acting: Starring Josh Brolin, Samuel L. Jackson and Elizabeth Olsen (the most talented of the Olsen’s) at the very least “Oldboy” should have contained some entertainment value in its performances. But if I confirmed that, then I would be lying. Here’s the thing: When remaking a foreign film, one must tweak certain aspects in order for the content and mannerisms of the new film not to come off as foreign to its new audience. This did not happen here. Most notably in regards to the performances, which are so exaggeratedly melodramatic, that they come across as downright bad for the most part; to the point where I just wanted everyone to die for my sake.
But arguably the most frustrating aspect of this film has to be split between two sequences in particular. The first comes about an hour in, when Lee egregiously mishandles the infamous long take hallway battle sequence. Originally this sequence was meant to visually shock with its choreography, while keeping the stakes high with it brutal realism. In Lee’s version though, said sequence is reduced to little more than a terribly choreographed slapstick farce. The second sequence is basically the ending. And while I won’t ruin it for the few that will actually stay till the third act, the final ten minutes, which seems to hold the largest discrepancy between this and the Park version, comes off as such a nonsensical misfire that it basically ruins what little plot traction “Oldboy” still had.
Final Thought: This version of “Oldboy” is meaningless and should be forgotten as quickly as possible. In fact, this goes right up there with Gus Van Sant’s remake of “Psycho” as a pointless exercise rather than a full fledged “movie”.
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