Personally, I don't why any Hollywood studio
would sanction a remake of Chan wook Park's cult classic
'Oldboy', and I actually enjoyed Spike Lee's remake to a
degree. Not as much as the original, but it had value,
and dare I say, there are a couple of things this movie
actually improves on. But check it out… we have
this film in which the people that love this film… really love this film. It's in my
personal top ten of the best films ever made. Thus
people who hear of a remake are largely going be vehemently
opposed to it… and they were. Attacked it before it even
had a chance to breath. Even if this were the best movie
ever made, there is very little chance that this vocal
opposition would find anything to praise about this
movie. Then let's say you saw 'Oldboy' 2003 and hated
it, because quite honestly, it's kind of a messed up
movie. Considering the remake pretty much follows the
same path, there's very little chance you are going to like
what you see here in 2014 anymore than what you saw in
2003. Highly unlikely. Thus what we have here is
what they call a Zero Sum Game. There is no way to
win. Don't know why they even tried.
There are jerks, and then there's Joe Doucette (Josh Brolin)
who is just one of the most distasteful people you will ever
want to avoid. Loud, obnoxious, a drunkard, slow witted,
a terrible husband, a terrible father… Joe is awful. One
day, Joe wakes up in a hotel room. Simple enough… just
leave, right? Unfortunately, Joe will not leave that
room that he entered in 1993 until the year of 2013.
The first few years were tough for Joe as he simply tried to
drink his way out of his condition, then he saw the news story
about the murder / rape of his ex-wife, of which he has been
falsely accused, coupled with his daughter being carted off to
foster care and eventually Joe decided to make a change.
He doesn't know when he's going to get out, but he's going to
clean his system of that alcohol, take better care of his
body, learn to kick ass and when he does get out… he's going
to make his captors pay dearly.
After twenty years, Joe is released.
Joe has a simple goal, find his daughter to make up for lost
time and kill the people that put him away. Along the
way he meets the pretty lady in Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) who
also been through some things in her life and lives only to
help those who need help, and she has decided that she will
help Joe find his daughter and also help him discover who
stole his life.
Joe will experience quite the adventure, running into a smarmy
character named Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson) who actually runs
the place he stayed, though he didn't have anything to do with
putting him away… Joe makes them all pay anyway… until he
meets the man who did put him away. This man, who is a
lunatic if ever there was one, will tell Joe all he needs to
know, and return his daughter to him if he can tell him who he
is and why he put him away. Joe will not like the
answers that he finds.
One of the things I had heard from the filmmakers in regards
to this remake was that it is going to actually stay closer to
the manga source material as opposed to the Park film.
Well… that's not true. I read the manga, and this movie
pretty much just copies the Korean original plus or minus a
few elements. Another thing that concerned me about a
remake of 'Oldboy' 2003 is that the first film was so messed
up that I couldn't imagine an American remake embracing the
warped nature of that original, gosh darn… this one was
actually worse. Took things a little
bit further. That was a surprise.
Now I'm not going to try not to take too much time comparing
the two films but I did say the this one did improve on a
couple of things, one of these being economy with this one
taking a little less time to reach the point of the film, and
then the other being Sharto Copely. Sharto Copely is
just a really amazing actor and his villain is more fleshed
out and better presented than the villain in the original.
But enough of the comparisons, how is the movie itself?
Hmmm… this is going to be really difficult to do without
comparisons, but we will try. While Spike Lee might not
be the most popular guy in the room, he is still a very
skilled film director no matter what anyone wants to say about
the man, and he handles this very challenging film about as
well as can be expected. He keeps everything contained,
he keeps the story moving relentlessly forward, and most
importantly he stays out of the way. Spike has a style,
but for the most of the film he just lets the story tell
itself with the bare minimum of his typical Spike Lee
The acting was pretty solid from top to bottom. In
addition to Mr. Copely, Josh Brolin stamping his own signature
to the character of Joe, Samuel L. Jackson doing that thing he
does, and Elizabeth Olsen is really cute.
But yet I still find myself unable to separate the original
from this version, probably because the original left such an
indelible mark on my psyche, and the new film, despite the
fact it is a very solid, drum tight, well produced, and well
directed film. It simply cannot match the visceral
attitude set by the original. If that movie did not
exist, then this movie… while not great… would still be
getting a lot more love. But then if that movie didn't
exist, then neither would this one. Zero Sum Game.