Movie Review: Oldboy falls short of its’ predecessor
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Mark Protosevic
Stars: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson
Synopsis: Obsessed with vengeance, a man sets out to find out why he was kidnapped and locked into solitary confinement for 20 years without reason.
As with any remake, the main question people will ask is how it compares with the original and Spike Lee’s Oldboy doesn’t quite make the cut. Lee adds some descent, but not great, new elements and changes up a few things to make it interesting. His camerawork, as usual, is pretty good and is pretty creative in some areas. Lee uses the flashback’s in a unique way that keeps the characters involved as they and you, the audience, see’s how the scenes play out. The aesthetic Lee creates is similar to Park Chan-wook but it has the 2013 vibe that you’d expect and need from a remake. Where Lee fails, is in the development of the overall story and the big moments from the original fall flat here. Overall, it’s rushed and needed a little more depth to allow for the story to work. To Lee’s credit, the producers cut his 140 minute version down to 105 minutes which played a crucial role in that. However, Non-fans may find this version of Oldboy okay but avid fans will for sure be disappointed.
Mark Protosevic’s script, again probably effected by the producers cuts, hits most of the main elements but needed to dig a little deeper. The story is mostly shallow, underdeveloped and misses out on all the things that make the original film so great. The story is already pretty grim and depressing but this doesn’t add anything new or interesting enough to stand out on its’ own. The modernization changes were unique and made the story more relatable to the American audience of today, but I still question the authenticity. The dialogue doesn’t hit very many emotional beats and sometimes makes the characters seem laughable, especially in death moments. The main villain’s plot is arduous but on some levels, very hard to buy into. It’s just as disturbing as the original, but it’s not as well explained and is even more confusing. Again, I think the final cut makes it seem worse than perhaps what it was, but given what we see, it needed more. Overall, it’s not the worst script for a remake but there’s not much new or exciting about it.
Josh Brolin does a pretty good job as our main character, Joe Doucett who is kidnapped for 20 years, without knowing why, and then without reason is finally released. His character changes aren’t as well written but Brolin does a good enough job of trying to make you care. Some of his developments are hard to believe but it’s not because of Brolin, he’s strong enough. Elizabeth Olsen shows me why I love her and why she’s the best Olsen sister. She shows some good emotional ranges and was very good, even though she wasn’t given much to do. Samuel L. Jackson goes back to his swearing mantra where every other word needs to start with the letter “F”, which is always funny and gives him character. Again, he’s not given much to do but he’s still effective. Some of the death scenes were not shot nor were they performed well. Some of the supporting roles ended in some laughable ways and in a film that’s anything but laughable, it took away from some serious moments.
Roque Baños’ score is incredibly boring and is a big disappointment. The score for the original Oldboy was very, very good and added some great touches to the movie which made it really fun and entertaining, even in a story that is grim and depressing. That’s not easy to do. Baños only manages to make the film worse with anything that is uninspiring. The music adds absolutely nothing to the film.
“Spike Lee’s” Oldboy is rushed, undeveloped and if you haven’t seen the original, you’ll feel lost. The story is not explained well and is a huge disservice to the twist that is supposed to hit you hard. The final end sequence is different than the original and was easily one of the best parts of the movie. It’s really fitting and is probably the only thing that really separates itself well. Overall though, this is a product of bad editing from a studio that just “didn’t get it”. When studios get this much involved, it’s usually not a good thing and it’s always disappointing. Let the filmmakers do what you’ve hired them to do; make a good film. The producers butchered a movie that may have had potential to be something good, but instead, we only get a semi-inspired remake that was completely unnecessary.