Movie Review: Oldboy


Stars: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olson, Sharlto Copley, Michael Imperioli, Samuel L. Jackson

Rated R for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity, and language , Running time 104 minutes, Mystery/Action/Drama

Compare to: The Machinist (2004), Death Sentence (2007)

Much like Oliver Stone, Spike Lee is one those directors that’s difficult to differentiate from his movies. Aside from being vocal about whatever he has an opinion on, so much of his own character is put into the majority of his films that upon hearing that he would be remaking the 2003 Korean film of the same title, it seemed unnecessary yet an intriguing idea all the same.

And while Lee had a major task ahead of him, as any director of a remake has, he goes back and forth between delivering the appropriate strikes. While one scene is full of drama and mystery, the next completely undoes it all with gratuitous violence that seemed to have no other purpose than to shock.

Jackson's wardrobe left over from The Spirit.

Jackson’s wardrobe left over from The Spirit.

Joseph Doucett is a great salesmen, a bad father and all around terrible person. But after a night of stumbling around drunk, he wakes to find himself in a sealed hotel room with no way out. And though he thinks his stay to be temporary, his stay ends up being twenty years. Upon his mysterious release, Joseph sets out to find who imprisoned him and why.

The idea behind the movie is a fascinating one. To just wake up one day in a room you’ve never been in, being fed three meals a day with no explanation as to what’s happening to you sounds something like being buried alive. Brolin’s depiction of a man who loses his freedom by these circumstances is an interesting one. From anger to depression and loneliness…back to anger again. It does makes one wonder how long you’d be able to take the stress.

Brolin uses the Cage method of acting.

Brolin employs the Cage method of acting.

But it’s the ideas and some of the execution that may keep your interest here and not much else. Much of what you’re shown seems to be intended to make you say “How horrible!” …and then we’re onto the next scene.

Sharlto Copley portrays the mystery man who may or may not have orchestrated Brolin’s imprisonment and release but either way makes it clear he knows something our man Doucett wants to know. As much as I love Copley, I’ve got to say this may be my least favorite performance of his.

Here we get a comical posh Brit that seems more like something straight out of an anime show with no intentions of toning it down just because he’s a real person. Every scene him and several others are in make you feel like Brolin is going to go mad from Copley’s accent that just seems to mock what’s actually happening. I wish I could say it was a good thing as he is meant to antagonize Brolin’s character but it was just more antagonizing to me having to hear it.

Whatever's happening will be weird, I promise.

Whatever’s happening will be weird, I promise.

And it is unfair (or is it?) to compare and contrast to the original, where the Korean version showcased a man in a steady descent to the bottom, Lee’s version has us bouncing all over the place with no sign of progression or regression until pow, we’re at the end. Hope you liked it.

All of this, on top of the fact that the 2003 film and this share a similar twist ending and one that’s too Kafkaesque to enjoy in any way. A couple years ago, a friend mentioned that he had to like a particular movie because it made him feel uncomfortable and movies rarely do that to him anymore. I see his view and if uncomfortable is what you’re going for, Oldboy delivers (again). But the original may have made you uncomfortable because it simply showed what was happening.

Here, we’re shown a twisted conclusion almost for the sake of saying “AREN’T YOU GROSSED OUT? I BET YOU ARE, HUH?” It makes it difficult to like.


Positives- Brolin’s acting, good fight scenes, keeps you pinned

Negatives- Copley’s accent, gross to be gross, remake makes it no fun for original fans

Grade: C-

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Oldboy”

  1. Did you notice that in this version is seems the motivations of just about every major character in the film are completely different than the Korean version of the movie? It changes everything about the movie. The most disgusting change is probably the “happy ending”.

    • Taylor Says:

      Exactly, man. I wanted to go into more on the podcast but we were a bit rushed. There was no complex, overly-complicated bizarrely masterminded plot to make it all happen…it just kinda did.

      And Brolin smiling as he locks himself away forever? I appreciate there being a difference from the original but this was just dumb. Why is he smiling? Everything is worse than when he left it.


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