Film Review “Oldboy”

oldboy-posterStarring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley
Directed By: Spike Lee
Rated: R
Running Time: 104 minutes

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

It’s October 8th, 1993 when we get a quick overview of the life of Joe Doucett (Brolin). He’s quick to anger and just as quick to flirting with women. He yells at his ex-wife and tells her he won’t attend his three-year-old daughter’s birthday. His excuse is that it isn’t important and she won’t remember anyway. When he’s not being a vile human being, he’s quenching his thirst with hard liquor. After a long day of pissing everyone off, he stumbles through town drunk. Not even the bar wants him back. This’ll be his last taste of freedom for 20 years.

Joe wakes up in a motel room. No wait. After exploring his surrounding he’s overcome with horror that it’s not a hotel room. The door has no knob and is steel plated except for a small slit on the bottom to slide food through. He has a window that slides soothing fake scenery behind it’s unbreakable glass. The TV in the room is of no comfort. The news shows him that his ex-wife has been raped and murdered. And you guessed it, he’s the number one suspect. There’s no communication, no escape and no one there to tell him for the next two decades why he’s there. Just as randomly as he was kidnapped, he’s released.

Only a movie like this could turn Josh Brolin into a disgusting creature, but he’s at the top of his game as a vengeful father. Elizabeth Olsen turns in a fantastic performance as Marie. She’s a recovering addict trying to make her life better as well as helping other pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. So it does makes sense that when she encounters Joe, she suddenly becomes motivated to help him on his tortuous journey. Joe’s tormentor and imprisoner, Adrian (Copley) isn’t consumed with gleeful revenge, but is instead a sorrowful lunatic with untold wealth. The only one drowning in rage is Joe. Those stuck in the way of his warpath are torn apart, broken down and beaten into a coma.

Spike Lee has taken the original, beloved Korean film and made it his own. The plot isn’t shaken up, but instead the finer details are Americanized. The camera work ensnares your attention and some of the continuous shots are brilliant. With Spike Lee behind the camera and Josh Brolin breathing terror into this movie, this is one of the strongest remakes in years. Lee’s version really trims some of the fat from the story and leaves us with the juicy twists and turns. The script may have taken out some of the more disturbing moments of the original, but managed to create a more eerie final twist.
For anyone who’s seen the original, one of the first thoughts in your head is, “How will American audiences react to a movie like this?” Some will see many moments to be shocking for the sake of shock value. Their stomach will flip a few times and they’ll find it repulsive. Others may come away scratching their heads wondering why they liked it. They’ll probably think they’re a terrible person. This movie could be viewed as poetic filth, but once you start scraping away at the grime, there’s some humility in those final shocking moments. Can we overlook social norms and put ourselves in another’s shoes? This movie pushes the idea that redemption can be found through revenge. No matter how bloody and disgusting it is.

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