Exclusive: Spike Lee's Oldboy remake test screening reaction says its "just as sick and twisted as the original"
Based on the Manga graphic novel by by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi, OLDBOY is most notable for it's 2003 adaptation by director Park Chan-wook, winning the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and being called a "powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare," by the late film critic Roger Ebert. Last year, director Spike Lee began filming an American remake of the film, starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, and Samuel L. Jackson.
The remake's synopsis goes like this:
An advertising executive is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his punishment, only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.
Today, we have a trusted source's reactions to a test screening of the film, which confirms the good, the bad, and the ugly. By the very nature of clicking on this story you had to know there would be spoilers, but I'll give you one more chance to turn away.
On Brolin's performance:
Brolin’s performance as Joe (Oh dae-su from the original), in my opinion, can be paralleled to the anti-heroics of Walter White in Breaking Bad: you feel for him, you root for him, but that does not make him a good guy. The exposition of Joe in the beginning of the film does a bit of show and a bit of tell and does the right job of showing how much of a dirtbag he is. That way, when he gets abducted and imprisoned, you say to yourself, “the dick deserves it.” This version follows Joe a little more closely during his captivity (which is for twenty years, rather than the original’s fifteen). Brolin is at his best here as your heart breaks for him and you want desperately for his mental torture and anguish to be over.
On Copley's performance:
When he came on screen, I couldn’t even recognize him. He honestly blew me away with how good he was. You can tell that he’s having a great time playing a bad guy and loves to be the cat toying with a mouse right before he eats it. He comes across as someone who has immense pity for Joe while taking satisfaction from watching him squirm.
On Olsen's performance:
While both her and Copely are in supporting roles, Copely clearly got the meatier part and owns it better. I was a fan of Olsen’s performance, and she gave the character a good amount of depth, she didn’t blow me away nearly as much as Copely or Brolin did. However, I will say that it left me wanting more and I wish that she was given more to her backstory.
On changes, pacing, and cuts:
There are only minor changes, with stuff like the prison sequence being longer and some tweaks to the ending. It’s not shot for shot by any means either, so if you see it, you should definitely expect things to be different and to cringe all over again. In terms of pacing, again, this was a rough cut, but at a little over two hours, it mostly moved along at the right pace. There was some stuff transitioning from act two to three that could be cut and maybe some stuff from the beginning. In the end (and this should be viewed at positively), I felt like I was in the theatre for two hours and was perfectly content with that.
On Spike Lee's style and score (or lackthereof):
I think it’s safe to say that Spike Lee has a certain feel to his movies. In this, though, you can tell it’s not something that is of his own volition. However, is fingerprints are all over this flick. Even if you didn’t know that he directed the movie, the soundtrack, cinematography, vibe and feel of the movie scream Spike Lee. It’s a great touch that I haven’t seen in his other recent movies, like Inside Man. The score, while you can tell is Spike Lee-esque, is one of the only things that bothered me. In some scenes, it perfectly reflected what was going on on screen. In others, there was no score. While that may work for some scenes (like the Batman vs. Bane fight in TDKR), it didn’t work in these. The parts of the film that are tense would be even more thrilling with the right music behind it.
On the violence and similarities of it to the original:
Don’t worry, this is going to be rated R. Much like the original, acts two and three are very sadistic and “wrong.” The violence hasn’t been downplayed even a little bit as its just as sick and twisted as the original. If I had to summarize the violence in three words, they would bloody, gratuitous and hammer.
On the infamous "hallway" fight:
While they are basically the same across both versions, they do have some similarities. Rather than a fight down a long hallway, Joe is tasked with fighting guys down hallways across three floors. Some people in the screening found issue with this, but personally, I loved it. It was ridiculous and over the top in all the best ways. Would it hurt to have it trimmed? No. Would it be the end of the world to leave it as is? Absolutely not.
On the integrity of the ending:
The ending is even more incestuous than the original. The “big twist?” Still in there as is. However, the villain’s character…let’s just say the best thing about incest is that it’s the game the whole family can play! The last few minutes differ greatly from the Korean film in a way that I feel fits this version very well. I don’t want to give away too much, but to me, it almost makes more sense than the original’s ending.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and I can’t wait to see the final version of it in theatres. Even after seeing the original, I could say that I like them equally as much. The acting, story, and action all outweigh the negatives of the film, which can (and hopefully will be) fixed up before the final cut‘s release. I’ll give it an 8/10. And, as a quick note, the film was presented without a title, so we might have to start referring to it as something else sometime soon.
Sounds pretty good overall. I'm not a Spike Lee fan at all, but he does have his moments when he's able to get out of the way of himself. Here's to hoping he lets the film speak for itself as it sounds like it does. I'm more excited to see Brolin carry the film, as he's come a long way from THE GOONIES and has quickly beome a worthwhile asset to any project he attaches himself to (such as the upcoming SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR). With Sharlto Copley taking on the villain role in Neil Blomkamp's ELYSIUM and OLDBOY it looks like he's going to have a hell of a time chewing up some scenes as well.
OLDBOY is set for release on October 11, 2013.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Does this reaction make you feel better, worse, or the same about the remake?|