Blu-ray Review “Oldboy”

Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Spike Lee
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Run Time: 104 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Oldboy” is a remake of the Korean cult classic of the same name directed by Park Chan-wook, which was released in 2003. This version was directed by Spike Lee and stars Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen. It is hard to really fall in love with a movie personally when you read about how much the director hates the movie himself. Originally, Lee’s cut of this film was nearly three hours long and it was torn apart by the producers bringing it down to 104 minutes. I was a fan of the original Korean film, so I also had high expectations. This film isn’t terrible but it also doesn’t improve or surpass the original. Worth checking out for some fun shock and wow but I would prefer the original.

Official Premise: “Oldboy” is a provocative, visceral thriller that follows the story of an advertising executive (Brolin) who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.

Sony released this film on Blu-ray including also a HD Digital Ultraviolet copy. I would have loved to seen them take a chance and release the director’s cut of this film also but maybe they are holding out for a double dip to make more money to recoup how bad this film did in theaters. The 1080p transfer works well with the look and feel of the film, same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. In terms of special features, there are three featurettes including “The Making of Oldboy”, “Transformation” and “Talking Heads”. There are some alternate and extended scenes. Lastly there is a Workout Video Promo, which is quite funny.

Film Review “Oldboy”

Starring: 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.