Cinema Review: Oldboy | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 23rd, 2021  


Studio: FilmDistrict
Directed by Spike Lee

Dec 02, 2013 Web Exclusive
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Spike Lee steps out of his comfort zone with Oldboy, a “reinterpretation” of Chan-wook Park’s 2003 classic. Here, Josh Brolin plays Joe Doucett, a hedonistic ad exec, who awakes from one of his benders imprisoned in what looks like a hotel room. He has no hint as to why, no one to ask—but he soon learns that he’s here to stay. A TV is his window to the outside world. He learns that his wife has been murdered. That he is the main suspect. That his daughter—who he neglected—was placed into foster care. Helplessness gives way to resolve, and Doucett focuses his mind and body on escape, on pursuing his captors and finding his daughter. Then—20 years to the day of his abduction—he inexplicably awakes in an open field. With minimal clues and the help of a goodhearted social worker Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), Doucette begins tracking down his abductors—whoever they may be.

Lee takes his time crafting fiery characters and an impenetrable, who-and-why mystery only to rush through a series of arbitrary clues and explanations. That’s partially the point, but Lee and screenwriter Mark Protosevich seem too eager in exposing secrets that unfortunately feel telegraphed or inconsequential. Perhaps fans of the original—already immune to the story’s developments—will better appreciate Lee’s efforts. In the early hotel room scenes, he charts the 20 years with a series of clever devices, evoking the banality, loneliness, and claustrophobia without boring the audience. Lee’s films are typically void of violence and action—except his underrated Summer of Sam—but he never feels like a stranger to the form, giving his revenge-minded protagonist—equipped with nothing more than household items and a twisted imagination—a host of targets for 20 years of pent-up aggression. Yet, Oldboy feels more like a retelling than a Spike Lee joint, presenting characters whose boldness and ingenuity are unmatched by a plot perhaps too married to its Korean predecessor.

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 2/10


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