Oldboy Screen 16 articles



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  • Where Park's film imagined the wronged sibling taking revenge on the protagonist as a buttoned-down maniac mogul, the villain here takes the form of an obscenely wealthy, mustache-twirling British blue-blood (played tediously by Sharlto Copley), a choice that, combined with some other absurd touches, pushes the last act into full-tilt farce. In this and other instances, Oldboy seems to be responding to the sillier qualities of its source material by ramping up the ridiculousness...

  • ...Lee's Oldboy is drab and humorless, devoid of the stylistic curlicues that can get you through even a bad Spike Lee film. Like its hero, a clueless lug who's imprisoned for 20 years by an invisible captor for a transgression he doesn't remember committing, it stumbles onto the movie landscape, blinking in the glare and wondering, Where am I? Where did I come from? It's not just a movie about brainwashing; it's a brainwashed movie.

  • This one has its technical virtues, but it’s frankly kind of a muddle, and may have been doomed from the outset... All of this is watchable and even sometimes gripping, but it’s also awkward and artificial, and it’s impossible for me to say how viewers coming to this material for the first time will understand these seemingly unmotivated characters, their antiquated-feeling situation and the overall mood of paranoia.

  • The result is tightly constructed but ultimately a little airless: there are, for instance, a handful of spontaneous, lively moments between Brolin’s hero and Elizabeth Olsen’s junkie-turned-social worker, but—despite Olsen’s best efforts—the latter character never blossoms into more than a type If Lee’s Oldboy is a failure, it’s at least an accidental mark of its maker’s integrity: the work of a director too honest, open, frank and morally committed, at least in this case, for his own good.

  • Jackson's treatment here feels like a punishment for defection. And the movie feels like an encroachment upon Tarantino's Asian action turf. But there's none of Tarantino's geeky movie glee — and little of Lee's, just a trudging obligation to see the movie through. You can't say that about any of his nonfiction work in the last decade — it's alive. The best we get here is a strange poster of a grinning bellhop that hangs in Brolin's cell and some winking production and costume design.

  • Heart started sinking during the extended prologue, as Brolin's victim-to-be pulls an asshole move so moronically brazen that it qualifies for the Darwin Awards, presumably as a red herring for newbies. By the time Lee restaged the claustrophobic hammer brawl as a multi-level West Side Storyrumble, it was clear that his feel for material this nasty was nonexistent, and I actually found myself grateful for Copley's hammy Hammer villainy, which at least acknowledges the story's sheer silliness.

  • Fans of the first Oldboy are going for an action scene involving a hammer and several unlucky skulls—that’s here, but I’ll take Lee’s desperate bike chase through Chinatown over it. Weaknesses from the original remain, including a mustache-twirling villain straight out of a Bond film (Sharlto Copley) and a Freudian master plan that unravels the more you think about it. Give credit to Lee for staying fresh, even if this feels like slumming.

  • By remaking a film that won the Grand Prix at Cannes less than a decade earlier, Lee has undertaken a serious challenge. Less gory and thus easier to stomach than Park’s version, Lee’s film lacks the pulsating undercurrent of doom that makes Park’s Oldboysimultaneously magical and sickening. Instead, Lee brings a bit of levity and New York flavor to his Oldboy.

  • Maybe straight-faced isn’t the right approach for such an over-the-top narrative, pulled from a Japanese manga and built around one of the most elaborate revenge schemes in recent movie history. Park knew he was making pulp, and directed accordingly... If Spike has an ace in the hole, it’s his dependable star... Lending real gravity to his character’s single-minded crusade, [Brolin is] the best reason to give the film a chance.

  • It's worth pointing out here that Park's film is not an original story, but an adaptation of a Japanese comic book of the same name. Both versions find ways to visually suggest that you're reading a big-screen graphic novel with pages that come to life. The compositions in Lee's movie have such a painterly or "illustrated" quality that they might as well have thick black lines marking off the edges of the frame.

  • Lee’s Oldboy is the most freakishly nerve-shredding Hollywood movie since Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island,” from 2010. While it’s not quite the grandly nuanced, historically intricate, psychologically shattering film that Scorsese’s is, “Oldboy” is a hectic, furious movie that sends a viewer into the street reeling with a sense of having seen something that is, in both senses, incredible—it’s an extreme artifice that, in its implausible plotting, seethes with the power of unbelievable truths.

  • If Park’s film was a re-telling of The Odyssey (the name “Oh Dae-su” always felt like a giveaway to me), then Lee’s version feels more like a fable about transformation and never being able to run away from one’s true nature, like something out of La Fontaine or Aesop.

  • Stranger and much more overtly surreal than Park's original, with a mincing, Vincent Price-like villain to match Lee's take on the material. A great case for critical forensic investigation; the opening stretch with Doucett's imprisonment (longer and, in my opinion, better than Park's version) seems to have been left more or less intact, while the jumpiness of the midsection suggests extensive tampering.

  • Lee ornaments the film with elaborate tracking shots, theatrical lighting schemes, and multitiered compositions containing screens within screens. He shifts dramatically between 35-millimeter, 16-millimeter, and even 8-millimeter film, and playfully disregards conventional flashbacks, editing, and good taste. Regardless of whether Lee succeeds here as a storyteller, he communicates such pleasure in the filmmaking process that you might appreciate it for the showmanship alone.

  • Lee's Oldboy is tamer than Park's in terms of on-screen mayhem, but it's consequently more suggestively outrageous. Like a David Lynch film, this Oldboy seems to be forever on the verge of jumping the rails into the realm of the transgressive, and that sense of enforced restraint imbues the film with a feeling of caged energy that's disquieting.

  • What we can say is that at its core, the new movie remains the world's most elaborate anti-gossip PSA ever constructed, a theater-of-pain Rube Goldberg contraption that Lee sets up to go off without a hitch — a feat impressive in and of itself... Lee may want to consider taking journeyman gigs more often. This is not a Spike Lee joint. This is, however, one helluva ballsy, batshit studio movie, directed with panache and flawless technique.

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