Review: Oldboy 2013

The Spike Lee remake of “Oldboy” is nothing like, or comparable to, the famously epic South Korean thriller directed by Chan-wook Park back in 2003. You’ll be very disappointed if you are a fan of the original Oldboy 2003, and if you are expecting a Spike Lee style, or a Spike Lee version of, “Oldboy” you won’t have your fix or much of the satisfaction either. On the other hand, if you have no knowledge of the 2003 film, or if you have trouble watching an edgy foreign film with subtitles, or you’re not really familiar with Spike Lee’s career, then you might find this 2013 Oldboy pretty interesting. However, we can hardly see it as a Spike Lee film, unless, we assume that the production meant to unmake “Oldboy” instead of having one of the best American filmmakers Spike Lee do a remake of it.

The California based production Vertigo Entertainment’s executive producer, the Korean-American Roy Lee, specializes in remaking Asia’s top Box Office films like ‘The Grudge’, ‘The Eye’, ‘The Departed’ etc. into American marketable shape of movies. This means these remake movie’s logic needs to be made acceptable to a large American audience and the moral aspect has to fit to the concept of American family values. For which, the original story of “Oldboy”, from the Japanese Manga with the same name and from the 2003 film, was rewritten and tuned down in complexity, despite of the Restricted rate release in United States.

Spike Lee is indeed one of the best choices to remake “Oldboy”, and the talented writer Mark Protosevich who wrote ‘The Cell’, ‘Poseidon’, ‘I Am Legend’, ‘Thor’, is one of the best script writers today. The film is beautifully shot and made, the script is carefully written, and two excellent actors Josh Brolin (‘W.’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Gangster Squad’, ‘Labor Day’) and Elizabeth Olsen (‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’, ‘In Secret’) were placed in this film delightfully, which makes this film gently watchable for the new audience rather than a psychologically violent and shocking graphic revenge thriller.

Even though the 2013 version is somewhat suitable for a better sale, but the “invented” torture shown in the film is actually harder to endure which doesn’t make any sense and it is hard to see the motivation of it. And the change of the main character’s profession to a homeless health care social worker, or changing the story plot to a revenge of a psychological bully in school or even the incest destroyed family, does not mean it is more human nor more logical for the audience today, and that’s exactly what’s missing in this 2013 Oldboy – the human side of each of the characters.
– Shumaï Chou