Derek Winnert


This article was written on 05 Dec 2013, and is filled under Reviews.

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Oldboy – Film Review






Josh Brolin is great as Joe Doucett, an advertising executive who is abducted and locked into solitary confinement for 20 years. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive quest to find out why he has been kidnapped and by whom. The trail leads to a lovely, sexy young woman Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olsen), the guard in his prison Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson) and the nutter who is responsible for it all, Adrian (Sharlto Copley). Naturally fired up with vengeance, he finds he is still trapped, this time not in a room but in a web of conspiracy and in mental hell.

Director Spike Lee’s bold, visceral reworking of Chan-wook Park’s cult favourite 2003 Korean thriller is patchy but highly effective in places. Just when you’re getting involved and hooked in and falling under its spell, along comes a rotten scene to alienate you. Jackson is camp and meant to be funny, but his extravagant performance falls flat, while Copley is terrible, in an embarrassing performance as a cartoon character villain. While these two are on screen the film screams to a halt. But while Brolin is on screen alone, it’s on fire. Olsen’s fine but a little bit lost in the guys’ movie.

This is one hell of a tough movie, and that’s how it has to be. Comedy relief isn’t required, it doesn’t help, it just destroys the mood. The visuals are sometimes breath-taking, reminding us of the film’s manga basis. It’s a total eyeful of a movie. Mark Protosevich’s screenplay is very patchy but effective in places too, that’s mostly the problem. He wrote the Poseidon and I Am Legend screenplays, so he’s a remake specialist.

There are a couple of awesome fight scenes, though they look far too choreographed and CGI-ed to be fully exciting or involving. Also, you know Brolin’s going to have no trouble fending off whole armies of attackers, so any suspense is spoiled. Like James Bond, he’s never in any danger. The fight scenes still excite though, and you want to re-run them again immediately after to check them out and enjoy them all over again. This is a good film for a DVD, you can see and re-see the good bits and fast forward across the dross.

Oldboy never quite convinces you that it’s a necessary remake, but it’s by no means a waste of time either. It’s worth checking out, I’d say.

(C) Derek Winnert 2013


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