Film review: Oldboy **
(18, general release, 104 minutes)
Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson
Spike Lee's Oldboy is a remake of Park Chan-wook's acclaimed 2003 South Korean film, which was a sickeningly violent, but brilliantly assembled, thriller with undeniable psychological depth.
So why the remake? Because Americans don't like subtitles, and Spike Lee's film is no doubt intended to attract the mainstream US viewer the original never reached.
Josh Brolin plays Joe Doucett, an obnoxious, alcoholic 1990's advertising executive whose life is entering a terminal tailspin when an unseen enemy intervenes. Doucett is wandering drunk through the streets of Chinatown when he meets a mysterious woman: next thing he remembers, he comes to in a shabby and sparsely furnished room.
This will be his home for the next 20 years, his only comforts a television controlled from outside his room and a daily tray of food and vodka that's shoved through a hole in the door. Through TV news reports he finds out that his estranged wife has been murdered, and that he's been framed for the crime. His only daughter grows up despising him, and when Joe is released suddenly and without explanation in 2008, he's understandably out for revenge.
Oldboy was heavily cut by its producers against Lee's wishes, which perhaps partly explains its dreadfulness. But only partly, because this film is fundamentally flawed, derivative, feeble-minded and utterly lacking in soul. Brolin isn't much good, nor is Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L Jackson or an unrecognisable Sharlto Copley. It's a bad film, plain and simple, and a pretty nasty one at that.