Film Review – Oldboy (2013)

Oldboy - post

Title: Oldboy (2013)

Director: Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing)

Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot: Locked up for 20 years in a single room, ex-marketing guru Joe Doucett (Brolin) is released and sets about discovering who imprisoned him and who has framed him for the murder of his ex-wife all the while trying to find his daughter who he has not seen since she was 3 years old.

 “Heaven make me free of it. The rest is silence”

Review by Eddie on 12/05/2014

Coming out 10 years after the now revered 2003 Korean classic by Park Chan-Wook, Spike Lee’s Hollywood remake of Oldboy was met with much critical disdain and equally lacklustre box office performance upon release that we should now on-paper call this venture an out and out failure that failed to find an audience or do anything of significance that made it stand alone on its own merits. Yet, while not reaching the heights of the unique original, Spike Lee’s film is actually a very solid attempt at translating the original film and features enough visceral scenes of violence that it will linger in the memory without striking an emotional punch.

With a strong cast led by the baulking Josh Brolin and the ever impressive Elizabeth Olsen, hype for this Oldboy remake built up and in that respect the actors do deliver on the promise their names gave the picture. Brolin is a strong central figure in the mystery and violence of the film and his transformation from drunk arrogant businessman to focussed-on-revenge one-man-army is believable, while Olsen is equally solid as the caring stranger Marie Sebastian. Others in the film bring the piece down with particular mention needing to be made of both Samuel L Jackson as a ludicrous villain (complete with bad hair and dress sense) and in even more ludicrous form Sharlto Copley as the mysterious “invisible man”. Copley completely hams his role up and needed much more control from Lee to stop him going so overboard with a role that would of worked out much better as a straight up take, but then again the feel of Oldboy as was with the original is one of an almost fanciful nature.

There might not be any sea creature eating this time around but Lee’s version of the warped tale still features a hammer heavy fight, a nice cooked ‘mousey” meal and a chilling one take sweep of a household tragedy that makes the movie at times chilling and at times creepily compelling. It’s in these moments that the films mysterious centre comes out to shine and there is no denying that at the core of this blood filled tale is a story that works on many levels and would take a complete butchering to ruin.

The wow factor of Spike Lee’s Oldboy will be dimmed for those that have seen and loved the original but overall this is still a fine incarnation of the story that works on levels many films fail to reach. A bitingly funny, blood curdling violent and deeply disturbing tale, Oldboy is undeserving of its bad wrap and worth seeking out especially for those yet to experience the originals wild charms and for Lee personally its one mighty step up from the dribble that was Miracle at St. Anna.

3 and a half dumplings out of 5




27 responses to “Film Review – Oldboy (2013)

  1. Haven’t seen this one Eddie, but the original is one of the most relentlessly pessimistic films I’ve ever watched. An outstanding piece, but not one that I can say I enjoyed. Might need to give the remake a go! Great write-up mate.


    • Cheers Adam, worth checking out mate if just to see what they have done with the source material. Brolin did a pretty fine job and Jonze showed some pretty decent flair behind camera, something he hasn’t done in a little while now.

  2. I was actually looking forward to this one for a while ever since I heard Brolin and Lee were leading the team. However, once the almost universally negative reviews poured in I was scared away. Your take on the film encourages me to at least check it out on a rental. I haven’t seen a Spike Lee film in ages so this might be a decent one to re-introduce myself…

    • Awesome to hear man – I reckon it is well worth the cost of a rental if not only to see how the interpreted the material. Brolin was a real plus for the film.

  3. I think it’s safe to say that when people will ask others if they’ve seen Oldboy, the reply won’t be, “which one?”

    Yeah, it’s that bad. Every single thing sucks in this one.. including the violence. I’m a huge fan of the original & compared to that, this film shouldn’t even exist. In fact, the unofficial remake made by Bollywood (Indian film industry) was far better than what Hollywood churned out.

    • Oh dude that is some very harsh words but passion is what we want. I don’t hold the original in uncut high regard although it is very much a better flick than this one. I do want to see that Bollywood flick now.

  4. Great review Eddie. I haven’t seen this one yet.. I’m a bit sceptical about it. I loved the original one (disturbing it may sounds) But im gonna give this one a shot.

    Greets, Bernardo

  5. I’ve been dying to see the original for a while. I’ve seen one instalment of the ‘Vengeance’ trilogy (‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’ and that was phenomenal). As much as I love Spike Lee – ‘Do the right thing’ is one of my all-time favourite films – he seems an unusual choice of director for this.

  6. I started watching the 2003 version but I quickly turned it off because I had a hard time understanding what was going on. I have to give this movie and this newer version another shot!

    • Absolutely Room, it all ends up being a pretty dark and twisted journey but I am sure you’ll be able to realise what’s going on about half way through 🙂

  7. Doesn’t need to exist, but since it does, I can’t help but appreciate it for what it is. Which is, an interesting remake done by none other than Spike Lee himself. Good review Eddie.

    • It’s not one of those ones you need to rush out and grab Abbi but if it came a night where there was nothing else pressing it’s worth a little look in.

  8. While I love your dumpling rating system, you liked this a tad more than I did. It does make me want to see the original and I’m hoping it pops up at one of the Asian film festivals that come to DC.

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