Netflix UK film review: Oldboy (Spike Lee)
James Butlin | On 10, Apr 2014Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley
Watch Oldboy (2013) online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Spike Lee’s remake of 2003 Korean film Oldboy follows the story of Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), an alcoholic advertising executive who, after a failed meeting, gets drunk and wakes up in what looks like a hotel room. It isn’t until later that he realises he has been imprisoned and will be for the next 20 years.
Park Chan-Wook’s original is bleak and powerful. It won the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival in 2004. Spike Lee’s remake broadly follows the same storyline, albeit tailored to an American audience. By altering it for the general movie-going public, though, it removes any kind of horror and mystery from the film, leaving a hollow and pointless shell.
Brolin’s performance is all shouting and screaming during his imprisonment, while his sorrow is never really felt. Our role is to root for this drastically unlikeable character as he seeks his redemption, but none of this comes to fruition, which makes the violence to come all the more tasteless as he searches for vengeance.
Elizabeth Olsen is the one redeeming performance as the unassuming and thoughtful Maria, a young nurse who helps Doucett to find those involved in his capture. Sharlto Copley’s villain is on a whole other level. His beard is perfectly trimmed and dyed and his accent is a manic alteration on the Queen’s English. It’s so hammy that you’d think he was auditioning for the next Bond outing.
As for That Hammer Scene, one of the original movie’s stand-out moments, it’s one of the remake’s rare diverting moments. It isn’t as claustrophobic and desperate but the fighting is at least well choreographed.
Overall, though, this is a needless remake that doesn’t go anywhere near fulfilling any kind of expectation and doesn’t provide anything close to entertainment. There has been mention that Spike Lee’s cut was edited by producers, so it would be interesting to see whether the changes drastically altered the direction taken but in this instance, you’d be better off sticking with the original.
Oldboy (2013) is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.