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Review: Oldboy

Nov. 26, 2013by: JimmyO

PLOT: When an inconspicuous advertising executive is suddenly imprisoned he finds that his entire world is being torn apart. After his unexpected release twenty years later, he is given the opportunity to find the man responsible and discover the reason for his captivity.

REVIEW: OLDBOY is a first for director Spike Lee. Unlike his previous pictures, this remake of Park Chan-wook’s Korean cult classic is “A Spike Lee Film.” That is the biggest surprise that fans of the original will find in Lee’s translation as every film of his before has been credited as “A Spike Lee Joint.” This solidly cast feature is not in any way a shot for shot remake, yet it is still shockingly similar with a few upgrades to try to add a little suspense to this revenge drama. The story of an unassuming man held captive for several years, who is finally released with the assignment of finding out the reason for his imprisonment is very familiar aside from the number of years locked up as well as a few other details. This time around, it is a very long twenty years of eating dumplings and finding out tragic news that he has been framed for murder.

It is near impossible to not compare Lee’s remake to Chan-wook’s cinematic masterwork which was released in 2003. Looking back at the striking and dare I say brilliant feature, it has certainly aged well. Even going in knowing every twist and turn the little nuances the director added feel impressively relevant today. With that in mind, while not nearly as flawed as I had expected, all those little strokes of genius and moral ambiguity are lost in the update. That is not to say Lee’s take is a bad film, it is actually a competently put-together thriller that audiences not familiar with the story may entertain in. At its best, the cast is top-notch with Josh Brolin playing a perfectly good anti-hero and Elizabeth Olsen as a smart young woman touched by his plight. As for Sharlto Copley, he makes for a crafty and creepy villain of sorts with a heaping helping of baggage. There is some good to be found here. And we must not forget the always insanely entertaining Samuel L. Jackson who shows up, says "muther f*cker" and does his thing well.

Avoiding as many spoilers as I can, some of the changes I feel are appropriate to be addressed, so if you’d like to avoid spoilage skip to the next paragraph. Aside from a ton of extra nudity courtesy of Brolin, Copley and yes Olsen as well as edgier (bloodier) violence, this modern day telling ups the ante on using technology as a tool for the investigation. While the first film used an internet chatroom, this modern version puts Google to good use and even the popular music checking application “Shazam” as well. However, the biggest difference is the motivation for the villain and the final reveal. All that being said, it is not a major change but you can tell that Lee is aiming for a curveball with audiences who’ve watched the original film. Yet aside from a couple details, it is still far too familiar and most won’t be fooled by a couple of red-herrings.

Director Spike Lee seemingly plays very close to the original visually. However, without the narration used in the earlier film, he uses flashbacks heavily to complete the story. There is a far more simplistic structure for audiences to better understand the events taking place. The beauty of Park Chan-wook’s vision is the way it was revealed was not altogether simple and you had to pay attention. Lee and screenwriter Mark Protosavich (with manga credit to Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Ninegishi) seem to follow a more straightforward path with a clear and obvious reasoning behind what is happening, the art house appeal is nearly obliterated. There is (misplaced) humor here, however some of that humor comes from the over-the-top violence where Brolin is breaking his enemy’s foot or blowing off someone’s head. The famous one-take battle sequence from the original of course shows up. The scene was apparently shot as one-take yet cut per the request of the studio. It’s a seriously brutal sequence, and it works well enough. However, it would have been interesting to see it as Lee had intended.

Spike Lee’s OLDBOY is well-crafted and offers a few shades of beauty thanks to cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. Visually this is an impressive looking tale with a few striking fight sequences. Lee manages to take much of the story from the manga as well as Chan-wook’s film and give it a modern update. Of course the mystery injected into the first film is almost entirely lost thanks to choosing a safer route to tell this story. The cast is good – and in Olsen’s case she makes for a much more likable leading lady – yet they can’t really elevate OLDBOY to much more than a decently made thriller.

With more nudity and more violence there is less of one very important factor… and that is the mysterious nature that helped make Chan-wook’s style so much more involving. The shock value here is enough to thrill audiences unfamiliar with the original film or the manga, and they may truly have a good time delving into this dark and seedy world. It’s a shame that while it detracted from the previous film slightly, the set up for the reveal felt all too obvious for those that have seen it before. This Spike Lee Film isn’t the disaster many thought it would be, yet there is very little impact or real substance. Technically speaking, this is simply a cold and calculated revenge thriller that is satisfied to offer a few shocks, good performances with a little sex and violence thrown in for good measure. Yet it offers nothing new to the revenge genre besides another useless remake.

Source: JoBlo.com

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6:46AM on 12/08/2013
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my best friend's mother makes $89/hour on the internet. She has been unemployed for five months but last month her pay was $18036 just working on the internet for a few hours. hop over to this site... www.Buzz19.com
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+1
11:58PM on 11/27/2013
Well, none of this is surprising, but I think that the original gets too much credit for being so widely known. It is not as widely known a film as people give it credit for. So, stating that the film does this or that from the original really does nothing for this film. Honestly, the best review, I think, would come from someone unfamiliar with the original material, whether manga or film. That would be a more balanced review, since the focus could remain strictly on this version. That said, I
Well, none of this is surprising, but I think that the original gets too much credit for being so widely known. It is not as widely known a film as people give it credit for. So, stating that the film does this or that from the original really does nothing for this film. Honestly, the best review, I think, would come from someone unfamiliar with the original material, whether manga or film. That would be a more balanced review, since the focus could remain strictly on this version. That said, I was never really rooting for this remake, primarily because I dislike Lee and have little interest in his films, but also partly because I am disappointed they simply decided to remake the original film and not adapt the manga, which might have been a better movie. I feel like this film is a bit insulting to American audiences by playing it safe and trying to cover ends by amping up the sex and violence. That was never what made the original film, and it was never going to help this one either.
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5:59PM on 11/27/2013
Oh, man. I was rooting for Spike with this one. He seemed to have had a good cast and the potential for a good film, at least on the surface. Unfortunately, his films are usually hurt by poor screenplays (e.g. Girl 6, Miracle at St. Anna). It looks and sounds like (according to the reviews I'm reading and watching online) that this remake misses the mark.
Oh, man. I was rooting for Spike with this one. He seemed to have had a good cast and the potential for a good film, at least on the surface. Unfortunately, his films are usually hurt by poor screenplays (e.g. Girl 6, Miracle at St. Anna). It looks and sounds like (according to the reviews I'm reading and watching online) that this remake misses the mark.
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+4
12:48PM on 11/27/2013

I love the original... but

while I have never had much interest in checking this one out, especially after hearing early script reviews saying they really didn't change much at all (despite how the cast and crew talked it up as being 'its own thing') I still would be pretty interested in seeing a review from a few people who have never seen the original Korean movie.
while I have never had much interest in checking this one out, especially after hearing early script reviews saying they really didn't change much at all (despite how the cast and crew talked it up as being 'its own thing') I still would be pretty interested in seeing a review from a few people who have never seen the original Korean movie.
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7:21AM on 11/27/2013
I'm going to see it because apparently I have a penchant for masochism or something... but I'm not looking forward to it. I am, however, glad this whole mess is behind us, and once the film comes out we can all forget that the remake ever existed and go back to worshiping the original.
I'm going to see it because apparently I have a penchant for masochism or something... but I'm not looking forward to it. I am, however, glad this whole mess is behind us, and once the film comes out we can all forget that the remake ever existed and go back to worshiping the original.
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3:50AM on 11/27/2013

Sean Bobbit (part 2)

Alright so I saw the film and realized Sean Bobbit didn't do the film for just pay but had a blast doing it. I mean this is the first film that he could have boatloads of fun with and I'm sure it was a swell ride for him. Was it A quality? No but you could tell he stepped away from his usual norms and didn't mind doing so at all.

I might be the minority here but I usually watch films based on the talent other than the director.
Alright so I saw the film and realized Sean Bobbit didn't do the film for just pay but had a blast doing it. I mean this is the first film that he could have boatloads of fun with and I'm sure it was a swell ride for him. Was it A quality? No but you could tell he stepped away from his usual norms and didn't mind doing so at all.

I might be the minority here but I usually watch films based on the talent other than the director.
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12:55AM on 11/27/2013
so doesn't bring anything new to the table ill stick with the original
so doesn't bring anything new to the table ill stick with the original
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12:19AM on 11/27/2013
You say Chan-wook as if you knew Park Chan-wook personally. Park is his family name and Chan-wook is his given name.
You say Chan-wook as if you knew Park Chan-wook personally. Park is his family name and Chan-wook is his given name.
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8:12PM on 11/26/2013

Ugh, not worth it for sure!

Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to jump off the closest skyscraper. I really enjoy Josh Brolin but this remake from the hack director Spike Lee (should be in movie jail for anything made after 1999's Summer of Sam) looked like shit from day one.
Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to jump off the closest skyscraper. I really enjoy Josh Brolin but this remake from the hack director Spike Lee (should be in movie jail for anything made after 1999's Summer of Sam) looked like shit from day one.
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7:35PM on 11/26/2013

Sean Bobbit?

That man has an artistic eye for film. It's strange to see him get mixed up in this. I wonder if he thought his cinematography could help the film or if it was a paycheck job. I can't imagine Bobbit doing it for the money, he has Derek Cianfrance and Steve McQueen for that lol.
That man has an artistic eye for film. It's strange to see him get mixed up in this. I wonder if he thought his cinematography could help the film or if it was a paycheck job. I can't imagine Bobbit doing it for the money, he has Derek Cianfrance and Steve McQueen for that lol.
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3:49AM on 11/27/2013
Alright so I saw the film and realized Sean Bobbit didn't do the film for just pay but had a blast doing it. I mean this is the first film that he could have boatloads of fun with and I'm sure it was a swell ride for him. Was it A quality? No but you could tell he stepped away from his usual norms.
Alright so I saw the film and realized Sean Bobbit didn't do the film for just pay but had a blast doing it. I mean this is the first film that he could have boatloads of fun with and I'm sure it was a swell ride for him. Was it A quality? No but you could tell he stepped away from his usual norms.
+8
6:20PM on 11/26/2013

Don't bother.

What is even the point of this remake? The review I saw on Badass Digest said it's basically the same but cinematically does nothing to enhance it. The script might be ok and the story the same as the first but I really want to hate Spike Lee for trying to show himself as a different and rogueish director but makes a remake of a film that was already an adaptation of a manga.
What is even the point of this remake? The review I saw on Badass Digest said it's basically the same but cinematically does nothing to enhance it. The script might be ok and the story the same as the first but I really want to hate Spike Lee for trying to show himself as a different and rogueish director but makes a remake of a film that was already an adaptation of a manga.
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+3
5:56PM on 11/26/2013

Ehh...

There's enough positive in there for me to still give it a shot, but I'm a little disappointed to hear it didn't deviate a little more from the original. I'm a fan of the cast, especially Olsen and Copley, and Spike Lee has (rare) moments of brilliance. I was hoping for better reviews to justify my interest in seeing it. On one hand, I'm glad they didn't screw with the plot too much, but at the same time, it seems like Lee was just playing it safe as opposed to trying to be respectful to the
There's enough positive in there for me to still give it a shot, but I'm a little disappointed to hear it didn't deviate a little more from the original. I'm a fan of the cast, especially Olsen and Copley, and Spike Lee has (rare) moments of brilliance. I was hoping for better reviews to justify my interest in seeing it. On one hand, I'm glad they didn't screw with the plot too much, but at the same time, it seems like Lee was just playing it safe as opposed to trying to be respectful to the original.
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+1
5:09PM on 11/26/2013

Uhhhh....

5 out if 10?? Most of that review was complimentary, shit rating doesn't make sense at all. Your review actually made me want to go see it for "great acting, gratuitous nudity/violence, good twist to story for those that haven't seen it" etc. Then you slap it with a 5. Also, why can't you just review the movie for what it is, and not what it was a remake of?!
5 out if 10?? Most of that review was complimentary, shit rating doesn't make sense at all. Your review actually made me want to go see it for "great acting, gratuitous nudity/violence, good twist to story for those that haven't seen it" etc. Then you slap it with a 5. Also, why can't you just review the movie for what it is, and not what it was a remake of?!
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12:59AM on 11/27/2013
Well think about it: if it's just the same as the original without taking its own angle, and it's not BETTER than the original, why not just watch the original? Why even bother with the new version? Do you really want to waste discovering the story's twist on a lesser version?
Well think about it: if it's just the same as the original without taking its own angle, and it's not BETTER than the original, why not just watch the original? Why even bother with the new version? Do you really want to waste discovering the story's twist on a lesser version?
4:36PM on 11/26/2013
Never interested me. Loved the original too much. It's the other reason that I refused to watch Rob Zombie's version of Halloween. Fucking remakes...
Never interested me. Loved the original too much. It's the other reason that I refused to watch Rob Zombie's version of Halloween. Fucking remakes...
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4:12PM on 11/26/2013

I knew it.

There was never a reason to remake this.

Oh and fuck Spike Lee...fucking racist :)
There was never a reason to remake this.

Oh and fuck Spike Lee...fucking racist :)
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8:36PM on 11/26/2013
Well put!
Well put!
3:49PM on 11/26/2013
I love the original Oldboy, so I didn't want to see this one, but since Olsen will be naked, I'm there! :-)
I love the original Oldboy, so I didn't want to see this one, but since Olsen will be naked, I'm there! :-)
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3:48PM on 11/26/2013
Still excited.
Still excited.
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9:58PM on 11/26/2013
Not surprised.
Not surprised.
12:08AM on 11/27/2013
Soloist for gods sake man just shhhhhhhhh
Soloist for gods sake man just shhhhhhhhh
-15
3:06PM on 11/26/2013
Well, basically what everyone expected. A well produced and shot rip-off with more starpower and less brain, pretty much like "the Departed". But that scored a 8 of 10?!
Well, basically what everyone expected. A well produced and shot rip-off with more starpower and less brain, pretty much like "the Departed". But that scored a 8 of 10?!
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3:08PM on 11/26/2013
I personally didn't review THE DEPARTED so I didn't give it an 8 of 10.
I personally didn't review THE DEPARTED so I didn't give it an 8 of 10.
-3
2:25PM on 11/26/2013

so

So, for the same reason why I skip movies like ALL of the Expendables and movies exactly like it, I will skip the American version of Oldboy. From what I thought Oldboy was to be a movie about redemption, much like The Count of Monte Cristo....one where the trespasses against them is bad and unfounded that the audience feels their pain and their redemption suddenly becomes yours....idk something like that...kinda like Shawshank prison...muahahaha
So, for the same reason why I skip movies like ALL of the Expendables and movies exactly like it, I will skip the American version of Oldboy. From what I thought Oldboy was to be a movie about redemption, much like The Count of Monte Cristo....one where the trespasses against them is bad and unfounded that the audience feels their pain and their redemption suddenly becomes yours....idk something like that...kinda like Shawshank prison...muahahaha
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2:21PM on 11/26/2013

Hollywood sucks

just pack up your bags, you're through.
just pack up your bags, you're through.
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2:21PM on 11/26/2013
Your rating makes no sense!!!

You spent the entire article saying the movie was a decent film but still not as good as the original. You go into detail of what made the film so good. The only critique you had was that the film is not as good as the original. And that garners a 5/10?

Based purely on your own review, I would give this movie at least a 7!
Your rating makes no sense!!!

You spent the entire article saying the movie was a decent film but still not as good as the original. You go into detail of what made the film so good. The only critique you had was that the film is not as good as the original. And that garners a 5/10?

Based purely on your own review, I would give this movie at least a 7!
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2:31PM on 11/26/2013
According to the number scale we use, a 5 means that you should wait for video. I do mention that is decent but with very little substance. This is definitely a wait for video type of flick nothing more. Maybe its a 7 for those who have not watched the original, but that would be it. Hope that helps.
According to the number scale we use, a 5 means that you should wait for video. I do mention that is decent but with very little substance. This is definitely a wait for video type of flick nothing more. Maybe its a 7 for those who have not watched the original, but that would be it. Hope that helps.
-13
2:19PM on 11/26/2013

WHOA

WHOA is exactly what i said and felt when i saw your review score....woW...wth? I haven't seen either one yet so now I'm not sure I want to. As I dis-like very much, reading my way through a movie and now the American version might be total shit. Yes, don't pretend that a 5 doesn't mean 'total shit' because it does.
WHOA is exactly what i said and felt when i saw your review score....woW...wth? I haven't seen either one yet so now I'm not sure I want to. As I dis-like very much, reading my way through a movie and now the American version might be total shit. Yes, don't pretend that a 5 doesn't mean 'total shit' because it does.
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2:37PM on 11/26/2013
Really? You can't handle subtitles?
Really? You can't handle subtitles?
4:39PM on 11/26/2013
Do you watch any foreign films, because they all contain subtitles?
Do you watch any foreign films, because they all contain subtitles?
2:17PM on 11/26/2013
AKA: Pointless
AKA: Pointless
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