Oldboy movie poster
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Oldboy
Oldboy movie poster

Oldboy Movie Review

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Oldboy is a unique, disturbing and unpredictable tale of vengeance. Unfortunately for director Spike Lee and star Josh Brolin, Chan-wook Park already made the movie ten years ago. Worse, their remake adds absolutely nothing new, or better, to the bloody mix.

On its own, Lee's 2013 version of Oldboy is perfectly fine. Brolin plays the grizzled protagonist well. Elizabeth Olsen works as his love interest, if you can call her that. The movie, though made for American audiences, doesn't water down the story much at all, with exception to one [rather big] change to the ending.

But... it's all been done before. And better.

Chan-wook Park's version was gritty, creative, original and gripping. Spike Lee's version feels like an English-speaking copy that is a little less edgy, certainly not as creative and, because you already know what's going to happen, not very suspenseful. I remember watching the ending to Oldboy for the first time and being blown away; Lee's version misses the mark.

And if you haven't seen the original, stop even thinking about watching the American version first. Just don't. Stop. Don't. No...

The movie just isn't as good. Chan-wook Park is willing to go balls to the walls when it comes to disturbing stories (his original Oldboy is considered to be part of Park's "Vengeance Trilogy"); Lee doesn't have that same aptitude, though admittedly he is a better choice than Steven Spielberg, who was originally attached to direct. This new version's failings are most obvious during the action sequences, which just don't work as well with a white guy not known for his natural fighting ability. The ending, while still pretty messed up, isn't as messed up as the original's; it has been lightened for Western audiences.

Oldboy is by no means a disaster, but it's completely unnecessary. And in Hollywood, that's the worst kind of sin.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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