Monday, 20 July 2015

Oldboy - 2013 film review

Oldboy, an American film released two years ago, is directed by Spike Lee, and is evidently a re-make of a Korean movie from a decade earlier, of which I know little. The film stars Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett, a rather unpleasant ad man whose relationship has broken down, and who treats his young daughter unfeelingly. Not someone to whom one warms instinctively, to put it mildly. His personality flaws prove to be central to the plot.

Mysteriously, Doucett is abducted and finishes up as a captive in a cell from which escape seems impossible. He is fed, and has access to a television which keeps playing a true crime show covering the apparent murder of his ex, for which he is the one and only suspect. But he is innocent of the crime. Twenty years pass, and then suddenly, he is released, and befriended by the attractive Marie (Elizabeth Olsen.) What on earth is going on?

This is a truly intriguing premise, and the story does have fascinating elements, not least the organisation behind the prison where Doucett is held, which is headed by a bizarre character played by Samuel L. Jackson. For me, the trouble is that the violent scenes in which Doucett attacks a variety of people who wish him ill have a comic book feel that rob them of intensity, and make the whole film seem unrealistic. For me, this was a major shortcoming.

Doucett is plainly the victim of a mysterious plot, and as the nature of the plot becomes increasingly clear, it also felt increasingly familiar. Oldboy isn't a bad film by any means, but it does not live up to its potential. Whether the Korean original is much superior, I simply don't know, but internet reviews suggest that it is.


pattinase (abbott) said...

The Korean film is brilliant.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Martin, I watched a small part of this film on the cable and I'm waiting to see the entire movie. Josh Brolin is a good actor.

Todd Mason said...

The basic conte cruel absurdity of the basic premise tends to weaken the original, but I think a lot of cinephiles are capable of looking past that. What I saw of the US remake wasn't as deft.