Is it Oh Dae Su or Nnnooooo Dae Su?
Director : Spike Lee
Stars : Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson
Damn it! I promised myself I wouldn’t be that guy. You know the annoying one who can’t watch a new film without comparing it in a pretentious way to the foreign original it’s based on. I really tried not to be that guy but after seeing the Spike Lee directed OldBoy there’s really no other way to judge it other than referring to the South Korean masterpiece that inspired it.
Well, ‘inspired’ probably isn’t the most appropriate word. Because this OldBoy is basically a rip-off without any of the style or substance of the original elevating it to the lofty annals of the ‘not necessarily bad, but totally pointless’ remake. So what if anything is good about it?
For those who don’t know (also known as people who’ve never met me) OldBoy is an amazing Korean thriller with a fantastic concept for the plot. An unremarkable, chubby, normal, family man is abducted and imprisoned in a room for fifteen years with no explanation for the reasons why. He is then released and given five days to figure out who did this and why. It’s a movie that will fascinate, exhilarate, and confuse you and you should probably stop reading this now and go watch it.
The remake on the other hand, follows the plot extremely closely with a few small but significant changes. The main character Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is what can only be described as a total prick before he is captured. While in his prison room he improves himself, kicks alcohol, and trains himself to fight.
The original could in no way be described as realistic but it did have its own kind of internal logic. Being locked up for that long understandably turned Korean hero Oh Dae Su into a complete madman however in Lee’s version he adapts extremely quickly making the incarceration a redundant plot point. From here Doucett goes on his rampage to find out the truth along with a sympathetic nurse (played by Screenkicker favourite Elizabeth Olsen) culminating in a showdown with the person who put him through all of this.
Brolin is great as Doucett portraying him in a way that is both sympathetic and also desperate. Olsen is very good too and Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson. However Sharlto Copley as the mysterious Adrian Pryce is just plain weird. Not in the good way he was in Elysium though. This character has an odd English accent that sounds like nothing any English person has ever been lumbered with. He plays Pryce like a 1930’s horror film mad scientist and it instantly pulls you out of a movie that was already threatening to fall apart.
Aside from the mostly good performances the actual filmmaking on display is solid if uninspired. Lee completely shows up his visual limitations when compared to Chan-wook Park, director of the original which I won’t shut up about. The only visually striking scenes from the film are the ones Lee has lifted straight from Chan-wook (the hammer fight, the bad guys apartment, the strange suitcase) all adding to the pointlessness of the project.
Spike Lee’s OldBoy is like an OK Elton John lookalike (hear me out!). On the surface he looks impressively similar but sit him down behind a piano and he’s just going to embarrass himself. OldBoy isn’t an awful film when viewed on it’s own so add an extra point if you haven’t seen the original. And then subtract five points from your life for not having seen it. Basically the moral of the story is go watch the original. Shit, I knew I’d turn into that guy again. I hate that guy.
Have you seen either version of OldBoy? What are your thoughts on the remake? Are you an Elton John impersonator? Can you do that one with Robert Downey Jr in the video? I love that one