Film Micrœview #95: Oldboy (2013)

07.08.2014 § Leave a comment

I wonder...

I wonder…

Rating: Shrug.

Being an old fan of the original Chan-Wook Park film, I can say that Spike Lee’s remake for the benefit of general American audiences is not offensive. Anecdotally: ten minutes in as my girlfriend and I began to watch it, she realized that she had never seen the original; I felt confident enough in its quality at that point already to let this be her first and possibly only experience of the story.

I admit that the style, cinematography, and performances of Park’s film are not fresh enough in my head to truly recall what Lee’s might be missing in that department, however, Lee’s style, cinematography, and performances were satisfactory.

I did note a number of improvements or respectable adjustments to the original:

  1. Changing the nature of the villain’s trauma added extra dimensions to his imposition of it upon Oldboy. Smart.
  2. The fake TV show was an excellent device for further concealing the twist, as well as a heavier emotional blow to Oldboy.
  3. The famous side-scrolling action sequence from Oldboy got an American makeover. Park may specialize in hauntingly beautiful brutality, but Lee has certainly captured the brutally brutal brutality. Jesus Christ.
  4. A longer opening sequence gives us a better sense of Oldboy having many past enemies.
  5. A longer imprisonment sequence gives us more characterization moments for Oldboy too: raising mouse children, resisting the vodka they served him to overcome his alcoholism, and his failure to escape due to the broadcasting of material about his daughter.
  6. Samuel L. Jackson’s character stole the show here.

The only thing I’m really skeptical of is the change to the ultimate ending. The conundrum in the crazed expression of Oldboy in Park’s memory-wipe version left my soul scrambled forever, while the return-to-the-room-with-a-smirk choice of Oldboy in Lee’s version leaves me feeling more like, “Eh, I guess that’s clever, but why not just kill yourself.” Oh, also, I did like the Korean Oldboy’s crazy hair better than Brolin’s buzz cut.

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