Sunday, March 9, 2014

Oldboy (2013)

I loved the original Oldboy so much that I knew writing a review for the remake would be hard.  I highly doubted that they would be able to translate this one to American cinema, and I heard nothing but bad reviews.  Going into this movie, I expected very little, and I'll venture to say that I was a bit pleasantly surprised.  This doesn't even touch the original, but there were a few little details about it that I liked.  And a lot of others that I didn't.

In case you've missed the trailers or the original Korean version, I will summarize the idea of this version of Oldboy.  An alcoholic advertising executive, Joe Doucette (Josh Brolin) is just a general asshole.  He spends a large chunk of the beginning of the film cavorting about, inhaling alcohol, throwing up on himself and begging to be let into bars.  As opposed to Oh Dae Su, who had one bout of drunkeness in the original, you feel no sympathy for this douche, who is pretty much awful all around.

He wakes up in a hotel room, which we later learn to be a prison where you can pay to stash people you don't like.  Life is miserable -- same three meals every day, but he does still get his vodka fix.  Joe is framed for the murder of his wife, and his daughter, Mia survives.  He spends a lot of time going a little crazy, and I liked the addition of the mouse + babies, which added a little bit to the crazy.  After seeing his daughter on TV in frequent check-ups for a America's Most Wanted-type show, he decides to stop drinking, begin writing letters to his daughter, and find a way to get out of the room.

Of course, before he can do that, he is released, and told he has a specific amount of time to find his captor, and his reason for this extended kidnapping.  This is where Samuel L.Jackson appears, and in my opinion, he is totally miscast as the warden for the building where Joe was held.  The female savior in this version is Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), who is a social worker with way too much enthusiasm for helping some weird dude she just met.  Michael Imperioli is Chucky, Joe's favorite bartender in his drinking days.

The main "scenes" from the original are somewhat reflected in the remake, including the dumpling tasting, which not only falls flat, but makes little sense in an American movie, and the infamous hammer scene, which is downright laughable in this version.  The backstory is different, and involves a weird father-daughter-son molestation situation, which effectively creeped me the fuck out.  The final confrontation between Joe and his captor lacked the insanity and intensity of the original, although the infamous "twist" still managed to shock.

Overall, I didn't think this movie was as completely horrible as I expected, but it just really added no value, nor had much of a reason to be made.  But isn't that kind of the case with all remakes these days?  Well, except Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.  ;)