Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Sharlto Copley
Directed by: Spike Lee
Tagline: Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free.
Running time: 104 Minutes
Quick summary (from IMDB): Obsessed with vengeance, a man sets out to find out why he was kidnapped and locked into solitary confinement for 20 years without reason.
From the first moment I heard that Spike Lee was going to be remaking
’s 2003 film for an American audience, I wanted to hate it. I have
been pretty staunchly opposed to Americanized remakes of foreign movies for
several years. And while they’re not always terrible (David Finchers’ Girl withthe Dragon Tattoo and Matt Reeves’ Let Me In), they’re almost never necessary
(almost any horror movie of the last few years). As more details emerged about
Lee’s take on the revenge thriller, I became more intrigued by it, so much so
that I stopped hating it just because it was happening. I decided to try and
reserve my judgment until after I actually watch the movie. So for the majority
of the movie watching experience, I forced myself to pretend that Chan-wook Park ’s version didn’t exist. Chan-wook Park
And I was almost able to do it. For large stretches of the movie, I was able to pretend like I was watching a completely original movie, and during those periods, Spike Lee’s Oldboy was quite good. It was brutal and it was disturbing and had I not known better, I’d have been completely blindsided by some of the twists and turns the movie took. The only time I wasn’t able to suspend my memory of the original was for the hammer fight scene. It’s (probably) the most memorable part of Park’s movie and is amazing. Spike Lee’s take on it wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t a shot for shot remake of the original scene, which is what I would have done because it was perfect as is. In fact, that’s probably my main critique of the entirety of this version of Oldboy. It’s not bad, but it’s not the original.
About the only thing that this version has that Park’s version is lacking is a blonde mohawked Samuel L. Jackson. Every movie would be better with a blonde mohawked Sam Jackson in it. Period. I’d probably give the edge in casting overall to Lee’s version. Not necessarily because the actor’s in Lee’s version are better, but just that I’m more familiar with them.
Josh Brolin’s not what I would consider a name-draw actor. I’m not going to rush out to see every Josh Brolin movie that comes out, but I think he’s a good actor. His best work might have been his Tommy Lee Jones impression in MIB III, but he’s been solid in everything else I’ve seen him in. Brolin probably wouldn’t be my first choice to star in a revenge thriller, for that I’d have to go with Liam Neeson at this moment. But Neeson wouldn’t work in this movie; he’s too old to convincingly play himself in his 20s and 40s. Brolin is young enough and good looking enough to believably portray the same man for a 20 year stretch.
On its own, Spike Lee’s Oldboy is a good movie. It’s disturbing and shocking and entertaining. But when compared to
’s original, it just doesn’t hold up. If I had to
choose one to watch again, it’s going to be Park’s version, not Lee’s. And
Park’s Oldboy is (the best) part of a much bigger Vengeance Trilogy, including
Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Even if Oldboy was wildly
successful (and I don’t know that it was), I don’t see Spike Lee sticking with
it to remake those other two movies as well. Chan wook Park
3.5 out of 5 stars