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It’s been years since I watched Chan-wook Park’s film that pretty much took 2003 by storm, everybody was talking about Oldboy, I remember that much. I remember watching the movie and it felt like I needed a thicker skin. I don’t know if Park would be flattered by this remake and I may be alone on this but I think Spike Lee did it justice in terms of maintaining how disturbing, how chilling and unforgiving this film is. Revenge that turns into redemption. At times, it even gets diabolically fun.
OLDBOY is a provocative, visceral thriller that follows the story of Joe Doucette, a man who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement, for no apparent reason. When he is suddenly released without explanation, he begins an obsessive mission to find out who imprisoned him, only to discover that the real mystery is why he was set free.
Josh Brolin in this film carries that quiet Charles Bronson-esque persona, he’s bent on one thing and one thing only, too bad they didn’t give Brolin’s character, Joe Doucette, that Dae-su Oh crazy big Asian fro, but that would probably be distracting and it would end up be the only thing of Josh Brolin that people would talk about.
Scripted by Mark Protosevich whose body of work includes The Cell, and I Am Legend. Protosevich seems synonymous with a story about one lone character trying to get to the bottom of things, figuring out why he or she is the one getting screwed by the world. With OLDBOY, I feel that Protosevich and Spike Lee focus more on inviting the audience in on Doucette’s investigation rather than trying to copy the Korean film or the manga comic frame by frame. I don’t remember how much help the lead character received in the film, but in this OLDBOY, lone Doucette suddenly finds himself being assisted by Michael Imperioli and Elizabeth Olsen and also the magic of internet.
I find it quite difficult to like Elizabeth Olsen’s character, Marie Sebastian, to me, she’s not a strong female character, she’s more or less a victim that has become a stray dog, and is incredibly clingy. But I’m highly impressed with Sharlto Copley who has played a villain in movies prior, but what he puts on the table here in OLDBOY is one for the books, there’s something charismatic, something magnetic about his character Adrian, and yet you just know that he’s the kind of person you should always keep your distance from. I even sense a bit of Hannibal Lecter in Copley’s cold, articulate and manipulative performance. It’s the side of Copley you’ll enjoy and fear at the same time.
Without spoiling too much, OLDBOY has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing at every moment and get you shocked. Just like the original, this film deals with issues that may cause discomfort and I’m not talking about the violence, which is quite the watch for those of us fans of such films The Raid: Redemption. Spike Lee doesn’t waste any precious time, he wants Doucette to get to his targets, one by one, and then you as the audience expect Doucette to do his worst. Lee and Brolin did a fantastic job with the years where Doucette was held captive, the state or condition or the physical transformation that Brolin put himself through in order to bring you this beaten down Doucette is nothing short of remarkable. Excellent job by the production design, that little prison motel room was well staged, it’s like it has a life of its own, it plays a significant role in Douchett’s road down to madness and up to soberdom.
Along the way, you’ll be amused by bits and piece of humor at the expense of 20 years gone by, just like Captain America trying to adapt himself in the modern world, but for the most part, OLDBOY never loses sight on its agenda. It’s investigation, it’s violence, it’s revelation, those three are the formulas for this one hardcore of a revenge film, that is OLDBOY.
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