Oldboy

**½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 2.00 out of 5)
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Old Hat

Oldboy

The H-Bomb: Yuppie, alcoholic douche bag Joe Doucette (Josh Brolin) gets royally hammered after blowing a big business deal on the night of his daughter’s third birthday. He awakens from his drunken stupor to find himself inside a strange hotel room. After discovering that there is no phone, no window, and the only door is locked up tight, Joe realizes that he’s being held prisoner in this room. Day in and day out, Joe remains locked in the room, with only the television and a creepy portrait of a grinning bellhop to keep him company. His meals, usually dumplings from a Chinese restaurant and a bottle of liquor, are shoved through the slot in the door three times a day, but his attempts to speak with whoever is delivering the food are fruitless.

He finds out, via the television, that his ex-wife has been murdered, and that he has been framed for the crime. It’s then that he figures out, as if it wasn’t obvious before, that there’s some kind of plot against him. But who would do this to him, and why? After writing down a list of all the people he may have pissed off in the past, he realizes that there are countless possibilities. He’s wronged more than a few people in his life, and any one of them could be the one behind all this.

Sadly, Joe can’t do any more to narrow down the list of suspects from inside the room, and he’s not going anywhere for a long, long time. 20 years to be exact. For 20 goddamn years Joe is locked in that room. In that time, he manages to give up drinking and get himself into fighting shape, in case the day that he’s able to take revenge ever comes. Then, after all that time, he’s finally set free. But, whoever held him prisoner is hardly done with him, as he soon receives a call from his former captor, some bloke with a British accent, telling him that he has kidnapped his now adult daughter, and if he ever wants to see her again, he has only a few days to come and find them.

It’s not as if Joe needed the extra motivation, but nevertheless, the clock is ticking, and he’ll need to go digging deeply into his own past to try and figure out who the hell his sadistic tormentor is, and what he might have done to this person to make them go to such extreme lengths to exact their revenge.

I can’t really go on a tirade against Hollywood remakes of foreign films, as there have been some that I’ve genuinely enjoyed. Sure, there’s been shit like The Vanishing, or Swept Away, or any Asian horror remake that isn’t The Ring, but there have been some honest to God good ones, like The Departed and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Spike Lee’s “re-imagining” of Oldboy, based on Park Chan-Wook’s brutally awesome South Korean thriller of the same name, falls somewhere in the middle. It’s not good, nor is it bad, it just… is.

In a way, this is a tremendous letdown, as any movie with a premise as brilliantly bizarre as Oldboy’s, shouldn’t be merely okay. It either should be really fucking good, or really fucking bad. But to be so utterly forgettable, and to leave me the viewer feeling so completely indifferent to it, is much worse. Even if it had been terrible, I at least wouldn’t be shrugging it off without so much as a second thought. But as it stands, the only reason I’m paying it any thought at all, is so that I may review it for you, dear readers.

The pedigree of this Oldboy remake certainly isn’t the kind one would associate with mediocrity. I’m not exactly a fan of Spike Lee, however, I often do find his films provocative, if nothing else. Not so much the case with this one. Curiously branded “A Spike Lee Film” instead of the usual “A Spike Lee Joint,” this is a telling sign that Lee simply had no passion for this project. The vibrancy typically found in one of his “joints” is almost entirely absent, and despite some slick cinematography and a handful of interesting shots, there is next to no energy in the picture. Nothing in the story, not the ticking clock element, or even the stomach churning final twist, has any sense of urgency, and Lee’s rather limp recreation of the famous hallway hammer fight is but a shadow of the one from the original film.

It really is apparent that Lee’s heart just wasn’t in this at all, that it was merely a payday for him, and nothing more. Which is a crying shame, because it seemed to me like his leading man, Brolin, actually gave a shit. At first coming off as a hilariously buffoonish drunk, then transforming into a half-crazed, vengeance minded badass, he is tough, tense, and simply terrific here. His tussle with some punk ass football players has that oomph that the rest of the movie’s violence lacks, and the wince inducing scene where he takes a box cutter to Samuel L. Jackson’s throat would be a classic, if only it were in a better, and even halfway memorable, film. Brolin is definitely a forceful presence on screen, and he could’ve carried this movie, it’s just that Mark Protosevich’s screenplay never gave us a reason to care about his slime ball character.

Oh, but did I mention that Samuel L. Jackson is in this? Well, he is, but it’s of little consequence, because despite sporting a goofy ass mohawk, his role as a heavy is ultimately ineffectual… and I didn’t think it was possible for SLJ to be ineffectual, but the movie found a way. Another disappointing turn comes from Sharlto Copley, who was so tremendously nasty as the bad guy in Elysium, but as the underwritten villain of this flick, he doesn’t even rise to the level of mildly creepy. Elizabeth Olsen, as a sympathetic nurse, has a few nice moments with Brolin, and a rather showy sex scene, but ultimately, she doesn’t register much, either. Damn, that’s three excellent actors that Lee managed to completely waste… how does he do it?

In a way, this whole movie is a complete waste. A waste of time, money, and effort, for both the filmmakers and the audience. Again, not because it’s a bad movie, but because it’s such a painfully average one. It really does boggle the mind how Spike Lee was able to take something as gruesomely audacious as the original Oldboy, drain away all the potency, and leave us with a film this shockingly bland. He has remained largely faithful to the original’s story, and he didn’t neuter it in order to make it PG-13 friendly, but it completely lacks the outlandish punch that made its Korean counterpart so memorable. As far as remakes go, it’s perfectly watchable, thanks mainly to Josh Brolin doing his damnedest, but given the source material, this could’ve, and should’ve, been so much more.

~@TheHManTweeteth

 


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