OldBoy (2013) – Review

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?

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To be fair, this is like me most mornings

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.

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“When I said I wanted to stick me face in a huge chest, this isn’t what I had in mind”

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.

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I’m never happy with my passport photos either

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.

5/10

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

28 comments

  1. I saw the original in my college class. Even from the images here the remake doesn’t look as dark (tone wise) as the original Oldboy.

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  2. Good review Mikey. Better than most of the remakes that get churned out every so often, however, still not better than the original. That movie will probably stand the test of time for being an original revenge tale, while this remake will probably just be forgotten about.

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  3. RDJ wants love Mikey, I’d definitely give it to him. As for the remake I think I’ll be giving it a miss. To be honest while I could definitely appreciate the original it freaked me out. πŸ˜€

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  4. [sigh]. What is this American obsession with remaking films? Have your own idea, ffs! The original is one of the most mind-blowing films I’ve ever seen which begs the question ‘if the original was so good, why remake it?’. What’s the value of that?

    Just look at Ringu (yeah, I went there, I used the Japanese title), Rec, The Eye. It’s a totally pointless endeavour – just watch the original. Subtitles really aren’t that hard.

    Oh no. I think I’m being ‘that girl’ so I’ll sign off now.

    Great post.

    Like

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