Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oldboy (2013)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Fuck yo' spoilers!  No fucking octopus gets eaten in this remake!

Oldboy (2013) – 3 out of 5

I’m a big fan of the original Oldboy. Just recently I finally broke down and purchased it because Netflix personally called me and said that I need to return the DVD which I had been holding onto since I became a member back in 2005. Anyway, the film is shocking and intriguing beyond belief. Even watching it now and knowing that I already am aware of the shocking reveal, the ending still has an impact on me. So, when it was revealed that Spike Lee was directing an American remake with Josh Brolin, I was interested. (I don’t have those knee-jerk reactions where I flip out because a remake is occurring.) Hell, after seeing the trailer, I was a little more interested in it. I was curious to see how Lee was going to adapt it and see what is changed in translation. The biggest thing that was lost had to have been the addictive nature that the original possessed...and an enormous lack of live octopus consuming.

Stop crying...there's no octopus on that tray.

Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is a downright terrible person. He’s a drunk, a womanizer, an absentee father and just an all-around douche bag that treats people like shit. One night, he suddenly disappears and wakes up in a hotel room-like prison cell. There he is held captive for 20 years and is forced to learn that he was blackmailed for his ex-wife’s murder and that his daughter is growing up resenting him. Doucett uses the time to get his life in order and vows that when he escapes, he will make amends to those he’s wrong, make up for a lifetime of neglect for his child and, most of all, murder the ever-loving fuck out of the man who imprisoned him. Once out, he seeks help from an old friend (Michael Imperioli) and a young woman named Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), and finally learns the identity of the man keeping him (Sharlto Copley). However, the reasons behind his imprisonment became far more terrifying than Doucett could possibly imagine…

"Yeah, I can help you look that up, Joe.  Just let me take a look on my MAC BOOK!"

Even though I’m open minded about films being remade, it’s still difficult to watch a remake without comparing it to the original. It’s insanely hard to detach yourself and watch the movie like you don’t already have fond memories (or bad memories) of what you saw first. I’ll never hate on a remake because of the fact it’s a remake but when it’s a remake of a film I love, it’s so soooo hard to not hold it up to previous standards. It’s like when you get a new partner in your life and you get irritated because they don’t do that thing you like that the last holder of your relationship status on Facebook did. You all know what I’m talking about…cutting the crust off your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. However, like I stated, after watching the trailer, I was genuinely interested in seeing what Spike Lee did with this iconic South Korean classic.

After watching the film, I kinda wish Lee would have decided to keep this long hair/beard
combo and the entire film would have been Josh Brolin running around, shitting his pants and
parking like a dog.

I’ll just cut to the chase here, Oldboy was pretty mediocre. While I didn’t find it excruciating to endure or felt like someone destroyed the integrity of the first (which, for some reason, people think happens when a remake occurs. It’s like the thought never crossed their mind that they can spend the rest of their lives just watching the original and not ever viewing the remake), the problem I had with Oldboy is that it just didn’t seem to have the heart and soul it needed to be as memorable as the original. Granted, there are some great elements to the film but for every great part, there’s a part that just doesn’t feel like it wants to put in the effort.
The longer you stare at Elizabeth Olsen in this picture, the easier it is to imagine
that she is trying to read the man's mind.

On paper, the cast seems like a great choice. You have Josh Brolin in the lead role and Sharlto Copley playing the mysterious man who locked up Joe. Both actors are performers I love; and then, if that wasn’t enough, you have Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos and those tequila commercials in the film and Samuel L. “Mother Fuckin’” Jackson around as well. Of course, you have Elizabeth Olsen and I really haven’t seen much from her to really impress me or make her a memorable performer but, that aside, the cast seems like it is just loaded with star potential.

The decision to see everything in Jackson's nose was a bold one.

Then you get the actual product…

While all these actors are tremendously talented, the movie felt like that none of the actors were really giving their all or were just being too hammy. Josh Brolin runs all over the spectrum of looking uninterested in his role and becoming painfully annoying with trying too hard or not trying hard enough. The quality he delivers literally changes from scene to scene and it really destroyed a lot of the film and its impact. For example, the big reveal (which, if you’ve seen the original, you know what I’m talking about but I won’t say it for those who are not in the know…since, apparently, spoiling the ending to a film that’s original came out ten years ago and it’s hasn’t been in the theater for many months is the seemingly worst thing you can do)—anyway, during the big reveal, Brolin hits new levels of piss poor acting and looks like he was making fun of amateur actors rather than actually going ahead and delivering a powerful performance that should mirror and enhance the punch in the nards the reveal gives the viewer. It honestly hurt the film the most.
In this scene, Brolin uses his serious face...

And I’m not even going to get into my disappointment over NOT seeing Brolin eat a live octopus. But seriously, I wanted to see it happen.
EAT IT!!!!

As painful as it is for me to admit, since I have done nothing but sing about how awesome he is since I first saw him in District 9, Sharlto Copley was cheesy as shit in the film. His character lacks the depth and insidious underbelly that belonged to the original character he was based on and comes off more like a cartoon or stock character. The Stranger is supposed to be a rich man that uses his money and power to enact revenge on the man who slighted him years previous and, instead, in this remake he becomes a caricature of a rich character complete with snooty inflection and tone. He was too silly to take seriously and it took away all threatening menace that should have been there and should have only assisted in the reveal.

He just looks like his last name should be Fizzlebottom.

For what the character is turned into, Copley performs it decently and this representation could have easily worked in a different film but it just didn’t work for this one. While it looks like Lee wanted to have a sense of odd with this film, Copley’s performance and his silly character only ended up taking away from the hardcore edge this movie should have had more of.
Maybe the film's budget was just tied-up in meticulously trimming Copley's beard.

And speaking of hardcore…

This movie gets violent and hardcore-ly so (of course, true hardcore would have been eating the damn octopus, Brolin!). The original was violent too but it never came off as gratuitous; it felt necessary for Oh Dae-Su’s journey to find out why he was imprisoned and dish out his disgruntled feelings about being a little bit peeved about it. This time around, the character of Joe doesn’t look like he’s out to find out why but rather just out to kick some ass and kill as many mother fuckers as he can that get in the way. While a part of me loved this—the part of me that finds horrid violence entertaining—another part of me felt like the violence wasn’t being used to SHOW a point but rather BE the point. It kinda felt like the writers and Spike Lee didn’t understand why Oh Dae-Su was fighting in the original or why he was being subjected to all the pain and brutality. However, the violence was still ├╝ber-wicked and entertaining.
You know those glasses have an inscription on the frames that reads, "Bad
Mother Fucker."

One thing I did dig in this remake was the minor changes that was made to the film’s narrative. While the movie, when boiled down to its most basic storytelling elements, the story didn’t change much but there were elements that were tweaked, turned or adjusted slightly that made the experience fresh. Spike Lee also did a fantastic job at adding a lot of nods-and-winks to the fans of the original that I found to be amusing. Just seeing the new elements added were just plain interesting to me and kept the film from becoming a total wash—even the alteration that was done to the ending was kinda neat (oops, does that constitute a spoiler? Since, apparently, just saying the movie exists is considered a spoiler to the internet community nowadays). While these new additions and changes were interesting and, occasionally, fun, it still didn’t make the movie anything more than a one-shot for me. And sure, Spike Lee had some great choices in camera work and I really dug the long tracking shots and how he really made the infamous hallway fight scene come to life with his dynamic camera movements but, this too, didn’t stop it from being anything more than just “meh.”

It's always nice of movie henchmen to wait their turn when fighting.

Did I think Oldboy was unwatchable? No. Was it terrible? Not really. It just didn’t have the impact the film should have and a lot of the performances were disappointing. Did this remake destroy the integrity of the original? Fuck no, that’s just stupid. Who thinks like that? Could the movie have been saved by some octopi munching? Probably not, but it wouldn’t have hurt.

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