It’s no secret that most of us here at SJP are fans of Chan Wook Park’s 2003 revenge master piece. Even the guys who have never seen it are forced to say they enjoy it or else face late night drunken phone calls from me in which I recite all the songs from The Wiz. Yeah we take our Old Boy serious here. So I went into the theater with my guard up and ready to bash this flick. Sadly Spike Lee didn’t give me much too hate. Yes, I had my hater face on and ready to rock! Damn you Spike Lee you made a faithful adaptation of something I love without it being a direct copy! It’s awesome I found something to hate!
The fondness I have for Oldboy (2003) makes it impossible for me to watch this film without comparing the two. I wish I could turn the fanboy switch off but my nerdiness will not allow it. Sadly, all that talk Spike Lee did leading up to the film about the film being based off the original magna (Japanese comic book) was bullshit. We aren’t dealing with a shot for shot remake, but don’t let Lee fool you this is an American remake of Oldboy (2003). It’s not a bad thing, Lee is able to take the source material and add his own style to it with out shitting on the original. The issue here is whether or not this remake is needed or just another sign that Hollywood really is running out of ideas.
Joseph Ducett (Josh Brolin) is your run of the mill alcoholic, dueche bag, dead beat dad. On a particular heavy bender Ducett is abducted and imprisoned for 20 years with no explanation why. His only link to the outside world is a television with basic cable (life with out Boardwalk Empire is no life at all). Framed for the brutal rape and murder of his ex-wife Joe spends the majority of his time getting his shit together and fixating on revenge. Without any rhyme or reason one day Joe is released with nothing but a pocket full of cash and iPhone (at least it was the 5). With the help of childhood friend, Chucky (Michael Imperiolli) and recently acquainted hottie, Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) Joe has 72 hours to figure out what the hell is going on or live the rest of his days never knowing the truth behind his imprisonment.
Josh Brolin owns this show here,folks. The guy has some serious range and really gets to flex them acting chops. Going from the drunken asshole father to suicidal prison to the badass lose canon hell-bent on revenge all within 2 hours is damn impressive feat. Brolin handles these transitions with the ease of a talented actor. Sharlto Copely plays the antagonist, Adrian Pryce, with such sinister glee it’s really hard to believe this is the same guy who stared in the A-Team remake. Of course Samuel L Jackson shows up and wears weird clothes, sports a Mohawk and yells motherfucker in a way that only Jackson can. Not that I hated it but it did feel like a waste to have an actor of Jackson’s status in such a small part. I pretty sure that money could have been used for better catering or more naked shots of Elizabeth Olsen. You know, things that matter.
My major problem with Oldboy was the overall pacing. It felt way too fast. One of my favorite aspects of the original was the cat and mouse approach. Chan Wook Park (2003’s director) masterfully handled this where it felt like Lee was just trying to reach an ending. When Copely was on-screen he chewed up the scenery and the same goes for Brolin. The problem being Copely never gets the room to breathe and build that tension that resonated throughout Chan-Wook’s masterpiece. This brings me to the famous hallway fight scene. Lee is smart to not do a carbon copy of it and really takes a different approach to it. Sadly this pales in comparison to the original. Park smacked us in the head with that claw end hammer in 2003 and Lee’s felt more like a whiffle ball bat.
Overall Oldboy was a solid film and I will take it over the long rumored Will Smith/Steven Spielberg adaptation any day of the week. Image that hallway fight scene or the totally fucked up ending with a John Williams score! I would lock myself in a room for twenty years then go all crazy with a framing hammer if that abortion of film had taken place. Thankfully, we got a faithful adaptation with a solid cast that wasn’t afraid to add its own style.