There is one integral rule for any director or studio who is keen to remake a film, that film must need to be remade. We don’t mean with a new cast, or subtitles or any fancy director attached, we mean that something has to be missing from the original film that essentially warrants somebody else making another version. This is one simple rule, one simple rule that Hollywood continues to ignore on a constant basis.
Yes, we are aiming most, if not all of that criticism towards Hollywood. The entire world is aware that the studios must make a profit, but must they really ruin so many of the wonderful films that are already in the world? The answer is a resounding no. Must they ruin a film that really had no need to be remade? At all? No.
The original Oldboy is a masterpiece. Directed by Chan-wook Park, he of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance fame, the original was so brutal in its violence, so shocking in its reveal, so beautifully crafted that frankly putting a new director on the project and remaking an English version is just a massive insult.
As a critic, you will always attempt to put these personal emotions aside and just watch the film for what it is, but within twenty minutes of the running time, you will know you should have stuck with your gut instinct on this one. This project is massive waste of time.
Brolin plays Joe Doucett in the retelling, a business man who is not exactly known as the nice guy around town. Throughout his life and his career in advertising, Doucett has made many enemies, one who is even powerful enough to remove him from his life and lock up him up in a room for 20 years, framing him for the murder of his ex-wife and preventing him from seeing his daughter.
Doucett spends his years training for the outside world, attempting to figure out who has imprisoned him and writing letters of atonement to his daughter, a daughter that he ignored before his incarceration. However, when he is finally freed, Doucett misses the most fundamental question of all, not why was he imprisoned, but why was he set free?
There are no two ways about it, Spike Lee’s Oldboy is an absolute mess, it barely puts an original mark of any sort on the material, even though there are many vain attempts. Lee tries desperately to break away from the original, but just finds himself constantly drawn back. This is due to one simple reason, the original is flawless. Lee never achieves, in any way whatsoever, the level of tension that is created in the 2003 version. In fact, it may even leave the viewers confused about their feelings towards it.
The scenes and script are not self-assured and rather than playing the character from the script itself, Brolin ends up playing the last actor’s interpretation of that particular character. The massive draw of Oldboy is its brutality, its rawness, but it is essential, absolutely essential that you root for the lead character here, his approach to his future and his past is so astounding that you really have to believe that this character wanted to change. You never believe this with Brolin. He almost revels in playing the a**hole.
The only shining light in the entire affair is the performance of Elizabeth Olsen whose career is coming along leaps and bounds. Her performance is arguably the only one in the film that looks genuine, heartfelt and well thought out.
Oh and that infamous and beautiful fight scene in the hall? Lee managed to completely suck the life out of that.