Movie Review: “Oldboy”

I don’t really have enough words to tell everything that I want to in this review, and that isn’t just because I already wrote this entire review before but lost it because of a shitty backspace key, but rather, because there’s such a vagueness behind the selective words that have been chosen to do my thoughts justice. For those that aren’t aware, the movie that I am looking at is a 2013 American remake of Park Chan-wook’s 2013 film of the same name.

The movie stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley, while Spike Lee takes the reigns as far as directing goes. Both movies have considerable differences to be considered, however, they all center around a character that escapes after having been held hostage for decades in a hotel-room as he seeks revenge toward the person that has held him captive.

I think that it’s safe to say that the majority of the viewing public that had seen the original movie was welcoming this remake with the utmost of pessimism.

Remakes have always carried this stigma about them, and I think a lot of the pessimism is justifiable when you look back at history. There has been countless remakes that have failed to capture the same credibility as the movie in-which they took inspiration, however, I have always tried to approach them with an open-mind. I didn’t necessarily jump for joy when I heard that they were making an American adaptation of Oldboy, but that’s because there is no reason whatsoever to do so.

The remake isn’t meant to be solely targeting the individuals that enjoyed the original, in-fact, that isn’t even to be considered the leading demographic. These are the times when I feel that remakes are understandable and actually have an existence that carries relevance, when it is trying to share its story with an audience that otherwise would never hear it.

I know that one response is, “Well, why don’t they watch the original?” And those that say that have allowed the concept behind an American-adaptation fly over their head. While I enjoy foreign-movies, I understand that other individuals may not have the same interests as me. They may not enjoy subtitles, dubs, or they may have simply never cared enough to discover a movie like Oldboy. This isn’t a fault against them, and is mere personal preference.

Which brings about the relevance of an American-adaptation, and sometimes, they will actually capture the same sentimentality brought about by the original, or at the very least, hit some of the strong notes. For example, Let Me In, while not as good as Let the Right One In, captured a lot of the best scenes and had actors that treated the story with respect.

At the same time, a remake is the equivalent of walking on eggshells, because it’s so easy to break what was made special about that film. While Spike Lee’s Oldboy doesn’t exactly do justice to the original, I do believe that it’s at least an average movie with interesting ideas.

I’ll start off by saying that the first thing that I noticed about this movie is something that I believe will be significant for those that are fans of the original and are unsure whether or not they want to give this movie a chance. I do believe that this movie carries enough diverseness from the original to offer something that can at least be enjoyed to a certain degree. Similar to The Crow being followed by City of Angels, Salvation, and Wicked Prayer, Spike Lee’s film carries the basic-premise but makes moderate tweaks to how everything comes about. (and just like The Crow sequels, all of it isn’t exactly for the better.)

The movie has more of a straight-forward narrative behind it, it pieces things together and doesn’t really have much in the way of complications. However, the original had something of a nonlinear unpredictability about it that really enabled for it to be delved into like you were entering a spectacle. A lot of that has to do with the performance of the lead, played by Choi Min-sik. He comes across as somebody that feels incredibly deprived, isolated, and as if he has perhaps come to the brink of insanity, whereas while Josh Brolin brings out a decent performance, doesn’t really carry any of those traits. He seems more robotic than anything, as if we’re dealing with a complete and utter bad-ass. As an example, I’ll bring sight over to a scene with a hammer, in-which both characters fight off a group of people.

In the original, the protagonist comes off awkward and slow, as if reacting in the way that somebody would actually expect for him to react. Whereas in the remake, Josh Brolin basically dominates, and it feels like a scene from an action-movie more than anything else.

I will say that there’s a lot more depth to the characters in the remake, they actually go into more details about each character, and leave somewhat subtle little hints leading to the movie’s conclusion. They also incorporate a lot of interesting elements about the protagonist’s character, and do something more with him checking off people from a list. However, I don’t think that it actually changed anything for the better. While we don’t exactly get the most detailed of back-stories regarding the characters, there’s a certain whimsical mystique about it, I really enjoyed the cinematography and directing, everything felt grimy, desolate, and everything meshed together nicely.

I feel like, while you could technically look at the story of the original and remake and say that the remake checks-off more, it’s the way that they did it which really hooked me in.

The biggest criticism that I can offer about the remake is that it doesn’t really hammer in end, which is absolutely the best part of the movie. It differentiates considerably, however, whenever it happened in the original, it felt like a big event, whereas in the remake, it doesn’t. Obviously, I am not going to have the initial surprise, but I believe that it doesn’t have the same result in the remake as it did in the original.

In an effort to wrap this up quickly, I’ll conclude with saying that Spike Lee’s Oldboy has a lot of what made the original great, in that, it has the basics of the story, and by that alone, somebody experiencing the concept for the first time will probably appreciate it. However, the original had a better performance from the lead, and a director that knew exactly what he was doing.

Rating: – 2.8 out of 5.0