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article imageReview: ‘Oldboy’ fails to add anything new Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 1, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘Oldboy’, a man becomes obsessed with revenge after being kidnapped and mysteriously confined for 20 years for an unknown reason.
If you are a movie goer that seeks edgy, boundary-pushing cinema, you usually need to look no further than the overseas market. Without the rule of Hollywood, foreign filmmakers do not feel the need to appease mainstream audiences. They tell their tales as they see fit, not pulling back when things get a little dirty. That was part of the appeal of Chan-wook Park's Oldboy (2003), which was unapologetically violent and brutal in its punishment of most of the characters but also skilfully stylized. Director Spike Lee's version is generally faithful to the original film, but then what justifies its creation?
Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) wasn't winning any awards for father of the year or employee of the month. In fact his only recent accomplishment was not drowning in his own vomit after one of his many nights of binge drinking. When Joe wakes up in a strange motel room after blacking out, he doesn't think anything of it — until he realizes it's nothing but a sealed box made to look like a motel room. During his 20-year imprisonment, Joe is framed for his wife's death, watches his daughter grow up on a murder mystery show, battles depression and alcoholism, and eventually emerges a new man fit and looking for vengeance.
Brolin is more than adequate in the role, donning so many different looks and body shapes, it's sometimes difficult to even recognize him. He captures Joe's anguish and frustration, and makes the extended portion of the picture featuring him alone in a room the most exceptional aspect of the film. Joe experiences numerous emotions during his captivity, which is depicted and separated into chunks of time identified by major news events.
Though Brolin remains consistent after Joe's release, his capacity for the more physical aspects of the narrative is wanting. An epic scene in the original movie in which Joe's counterpart fends off hordes of bad guys is reduced to the repetitive swinging of a hammer. To save everyone the pain and embarrassment of another melee, the final sequence is completed off camera.
The remainder of the picture suffers from a predictable lack of originality. But the inability to consistently entertain is an issue of its own creation. Joe's search for the reason he was incarcerated is dull — both narratively and visually — as is the culprit behind the whole fiasco. The fact that they kept a version of the controversial reveal was surprising for the North American production, but not enough to save the film. And neither is a brief appearance by Samuel L. Jackson playing his signature bad mother.
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson
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