I’m not the biggest fan of foreign films. You can call me a snooty American or a simpleton who doesn’t understand the fine art of overseas cinema, but the truth is, I don’t go to the movies to read. If I wanted to do that I would stay home and read a book (If I read books). In 2003 I was pressured into seeing the South Korean film Oldboy because everyone said how phenomenal it was. Oldboy was entertaining for a foreign film, but I still found it ridiculous and too unbelievable.
Now, Spike Lee gives us an Americanized version of Oldboy staring Josh Brolin and guess what? It’s just as sick and engaging once again even if the whole plot is preposterous. For those unfamiliar with the source material, Oldboy is a twisted tale of an alcoholic, deadbeat dad named Joe (Brolin) who is imprisoned for 20 years for no apparent reason. Joe spends his solitude eating dumplings, punching walls and almost giving up on life before he is mysteriously set free. Joe sets out on a mission that seems both complicated yet convenient at the same time.
Oldboy takes some dark turns and doesn’t shy away from some hammer on skull violence. I will say that Spike Lee may have directed the worst fight scene I’ve ever seen on film. Fans of the original film will be disappointed with Lee’s inability to pull off the one man brawl scene that takes place in the updated version of Oldboy. There are some other changes to the plot in this new Oldboy, but the DNA of the original is still intact and there lies the problem.
As much as Oldboy keeps your attention with its violent and dark mystery, the bottom line is the story is pretty dumb by the time the credits roll. There’s no way that everything could have fallen into place so perfectly for both sides. Oldboy is just too over the top at times again in American cinemas. I have a feeling fans of the original Oldboy will not be as kind reviewing Spike Lee’s new version as I was.
Overall, I give Oldboy 2.5 out of 4 stars.
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