johnlink ranks OLDBOY (2013)

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last watched a movie. Busy month of directing shows, but a fun and productive one. I’m ready to be on the other side of a crazy winter, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss the fun of the plays I’ve been lucky enough to run. Anyway… I watched Spike Lee’s Americanization of OLDBOY. If I was going to jump back in, at least it would be with something interesting to talk about!


I watched OLDBOY (2013) on 3.17.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

I’ve seen the original Korean OLDBOY a number of years ago. I don’t remember when, exactly, but it predates the start of this blog in 2009 anyway. I don’t remember much about the movie other than something with a guy eating an octopus, some dude gouging his own eyes out, some crazy twist, and the famous long-shot of a single dude fighting a whole hallway of people with a hammer.

Coming to this new version of OLDBOY allowed me to be surprised by the moments and twists, and it allowed me to be once again shocked by the ending. It’s hard to say that this is an enjoyable film – though Spike Lee certainly activates the violence in a way which sucks in the viewer to thinking this is a normal action film – but it is an interesting one. Comparing it to the original? It probably isn’t as good. The biggest fault of this remake might be that it is entirely unnecessary. But it is out there, and it isn’t the worst thing to watch.

We start the film meeting Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin). It is the early 90s and he is living it up as a young guy. He’s divorced, he drinks to belligerence, he hates the world and it seems to feel the same about him. One day, he is snagged off the street. He is imprisoned for 20 years, and he learns that his ex-wife has been murdered and that he himself is the prime suspect. Of course… he is being imprisoned so they will never find him. He survives the twenty years by vowing to be a good father to his daughter and by getting strong physically (in one of the largest plot holes in the film, Joe learns to be a master fighter by – apparently – watching a lot of television and working out in his cell).

Then, twenty years later, he is let out. He meets a couple of bad guys (Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley) and a couple of good ones (Elizabeth Olsen and Michael Imperioli). He grows especially close to Olsen’s Marie as he tries to find his daughter and learn the secret to why he was imprisoned. The film seems to become entirely unbelievable, though the final reveal does provide many of the answers which seem to be plot holes early on.

Brolin is strong as Joe. He is masculinity unleashed, even if he seems all too civilized after twenty years of solitary imprisonment. Olsen is excellent, just as she is in everything she does. She once again elevates a character which could have been forgettable. Her Marie is a person who we feel has actually lived a tough life, when so often characters of this sort only seem to say that they have some sort of terrible past.

Spike Lee, for his part, does a nice job of paying homage to the first while making it his own. We see an octopus, but get a different version of that type of scene. The famous action scene recalls the original, but works hard to be its own piece of intense action. There are still those Spike Lee staples (like the guy who is having an extreme emotionally moment seemingly hovering through the air without talking as the camera looks up at his face and tracks quickly backward along with the character), but OLDBOY also stands as a nice example of the Lee working his mainstream filmmaking track as opposed to his more indie track.

This isn’t a bad movie. It may not be fun at the end, and it may be tough to watch sometimes. It would certainly be more kindly regarded if the original film wasn’t such a well-loved cult classic. But if this is viewed without super high expectations, it is a respectable piece of dark action filmmaking.




FINAL SCORE: 6.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on March 18, 2015.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks OLDBOY (2013)”

  1. Not a remake we needed, but still an okay watch nonetheless. More or less interesting. Good review John.

  2. Haven’t seen this version, but the original still resonates in my head. One of the better surprise endings to come along in a while.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: