Action / Drama / Mystery / Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten39%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled37%
IMDb Rating5.81076279

remakebased on mangaimprisonment

Plot summary

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Top cast

Pom Klementieff Photo
Pom Klementieff as Haeng-Bok
Elizabeth Olsen Photo
Elizabeth Olsen as Marie Sebastian
Josh Brolin Photo
Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
810.41 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 44 min
P/S ...
1.64 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 44 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by utgard144 / 10

Weak, Safe, and Uninteresting

Remakes are generally a bad idea. The percentage of remakes that are equal to or better than the original is probably less than 1%. However, English-language remakes of foreign films (or vice-versa I suppose) are a slightly different story. The percentage is still low, but maybe not quite as low. Anyway, all of this is to say that while I was skeptical of an Oldboy remake, I was not 100% against it. The benefit that a remake of a foreign film has over a regular remake is that you are pretty much forced to make things different, at least a little, simply by virtue of different tastes and filmmaking styles between cultures. That's a good thing, in theory, because all of the good remakes I can think of changed things from the original. The cookie cutter shot-for-shot remakes are the worst. Oldboy (2013) is, unfortunately, not a good remake.

In some ways the movie smartly avoids trying to copy some things from the original that would not fit with an American version. There's no hypnosis, no guy cutting his own tongue off, and no octopus scene. It's when the movie tries to copy its Korean roots that it fails most. I'm speaking particularly of the comedy and action portions, which feature Josh Brolin trying to mimic Choi Min-sik with embarrassing results. Obviously the biggest problem is that the twist that the first movie relied so heavily on is going to be spoiled for a large portion of the audience that will even want to see this one. Worse, this remake seems to telegraph the twist in ways the original didn't. I watched the movie with friends who hadn't seen the original and they all figured out the twist and none were particularly shocked by it. Finally, it ends with the type of bizarre "happy" ending that plays to the worst stereotypes of Hollywood filmmaking.

Josh Brolin was probably a weak choice to play the lead. He's not awful but just very unimpressive. Sharlto Copley, however, is terrible. Absolutely horrid. Yoo Ji-Tae was so good in the original film. He gave a sympathetic performance that actually made you feel for his character, even when you're being repulsed by his actions. In contrast, Copley is a completely unsympathetic foppish cartoon villain. To make matters worse, Samuel L. Jackson also appears in the movie in a villainous role and, of course, his huge personality makes Copley appear all the more underwhelming. The only real bright spot in the cast is Elizabeth Olsen, who continues to impress and is definitely headed for bigger things than this. Spike Lee's direction is workmanlike and uninspired. The less said about it the better. Yes it's a poor remake but, more importantly, it's a poor film altogether.

Reviewed by moviexclusive6 / 10

Neither imaginative enough to stand on its own nor inspired enough as a successful remake, Spike Lee's 'reintepretation' is unlikely to find much of an appreciative audience

Spike Lee's 'reimagining' of the Park Chan-Wook cult classic 'Oldboy' is a queer creature despite the notable absence of the original's iconic octopus-slurping scene. Those unfamiliar with Park's original, which itself was based on a late 1990s Japanese manga, will likely find it bizarre and even off-putting; and yet those who have seen and loved Park's 2004 Cannes Gran Prix winner are likely to dismiss this as mild and underwhelming compared to the original. But most of all, there is something distinctly Asian in the tale's themes of revenge and solitude that feel an odd and therefore unsatisfying fit for an Americanised "reinterpretation".

Yes, to call Lee's version a remake will be – if you take the filmmaker's words for it – akin to blasphemy. According to Lee, he and his writer Mark Protosevich had not sought to remake Park's movie; rather, they have returned to the manga by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi to shape a similar yet somewhat different story that keeps the essential baroque details intact. And so the setup is the same – a cold- blooded businessman is drugged and held captive in a windowless hotel room for 20 years, before being let out in a suitcase in the middle of a field.

The ever dependable character actor Josh Brolin plays the titular character named Joe Doucett, which we are introduced to as a boozy advertising executive who blows a make-or-break deal by propositioning his client's wife at the very meeting. His sentence for the next two decades while in captivity includes watching a ripped off version of 'America's Most Wanted' where he is held as the prime suspect for his ex-wife's murder, in between being fed the daily news as well as Chinese dumplings. The question upon his release is not who, but why – as 'District 9's' Sharlto Copley plainly puts to him after revealing himself very early into the movie as Joe's captor – which forms the core of the mystery behind his unusual circumstance.

Joe is aided in his subsequent quest for punishment and redemption by a bartender friend (The Sopranos' Michael Imperioli) as well as a kind- hearted social worker (Elizabeth Olsen). He has a timeline too – Copley threatens to kill his daughter in the next 48 hours if he fails to figure out his identity as well as the reason for his imprisonment. Neither should be unfamiliar to those who have seen Park's version; indeed, despite what Lee and Protosevich claim, they have only sought to vary the details from their predecessor.

So instead of an exercise in dentistry when Joe confronts the caretaker of his prison (Samuel L. Jackson),we are treated to an equally grotesque sequence where he slices bits of skin from off the man's throat. Instead of gobbling an octopus live and whole, Joe merely stares hard at the animal in a restaurant aquarium. And perhaps most significantly, Joe gets to restage the original film's iconic extended sequence where his character takes on an entire army of thugs with no more than a claw hammer and pure rage - a three and a half minute scene rehearsed for six weeks which to Lee's credit, loses none of its predecessor's visceral thrills.

Notwithstanding the distinct sense of familiarity with the proceedings, there is just something lost in translation. Park's original was the second and perhaps most famous instalment of his "Vengeance Trilogy" whose exploration of redemption and salvation was firmly set against a unique cultural context; unfortunately, the motivations for Joe's imprisonment lack that dramatic heft when yanked out of that context, especially since the inherent familial concepts make much more sense within an Asian setting. Lee also does himself little favour by undermining an otherwise grim and thoughtful story with cartoonish elements, most notably Jackson's garish performance (complete with blonde ponytail we may add) as Joe's chief jailer turned tormentor.

Thankfully, Brolin anchors the titular role with his compelling presence, built on a single-minded embrace of his character's vengeance. His transformation from self-pity to determination is a testament to his prowess as an actor, not to mention his dedication by having gained and then lost a lot of weight. Olsen provides a surprisingly warm emotional centre to the movie, especially in portraying the love angle between her character and Joe - which happens to be one of the ancillary additions Protosevich has brought to this adaptation. Copley is similarly excellent as the demented mastermind behind Joe's depravity, in particular when the two finally confront each other's demons in the operatic climax.

Yet call it what you may, but Lee's "reinterpretation" can never quite dissociate itself from Park's festival cult classic. Not only do the key elements remain similar, Lee also retains the iconic touches of the South Korean original. But beyond the graphic brutality, there is just something too culturally specific about the story's twists on revenge and redemption that defy a cross-cultural interpretation. It won't satisfy fans weaned on Park's version, nor for that matter is it likely to win over new converts with its uneven mix of fantasy and stylised naturalism. They'll be baffled, they'll be astonished, but it is unlikely if you are encountering this tale for the first time that you'll be impressed.

Reviewed by Prismark106 / 10

Flaws from the past

I have not seen the original Korean film Oldboy so I am in no position to make a comparison. The Spike Lee remake was critically mauled and flopped at the box office.

It is a flawed film but actually better than I expected. Josh Brolin is a boozy advertising executive in 1993 who wakes up imprisoned in a hotel room. He is fed, given Chinese food and basic hygiene. He finds out that he has been framed for his wife's murder and is now a wanted criminal and his daughter been put up for adoption. He has a TV set and goes through various events such as the Clinton Presidency, Bush Jr, 9/11, New Orleans floods, Obama and is released 20 years later and goes down to track the person who incarcerated him and why. Even after his release it looks like his captors are controlling his destiny.

Brolin in the early scenes looks terrible. I think he had a bad wig and he looks in his 50s. These are the scenes set in 1993 when he is supposed to be in his 20s.

The scenes in the hotel room are suitably grim and Lee adds some surreal touches to it. After 20 years and when Brolin decides to shape up in the hotel, we have some bloody fight scenes. However these sequences lack the balletic fight movements that Far East cinema is known for and Brolin is not a natural martial arts star.

However the film moves along swiftly and we the audience are intrigued as Brolin discovers the people running the hotel and the mysterious man who has directed events for the last 20 years who has a vendetta against Brolin.

Elizabeth Olsen is good as the nurse who helps him after his release and Brolin looks more suited for the scenes set 20 years later than the early part of the film.

The biggest flaw is I think Lee needed to maybe bring more of his own vision in the film rather than transplant a Korean film in the USA with I believe minor changes. You also need to hold too much suspension of disbelief that the villain is still watching and controlling Brolin's destiny.

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