Oldboy (2 stars)


Spike Lee's remake of the cult Korean film lacks suspense and wit

As a filmmaker Spike Lee is inconsistent, but successes like Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X and 25th Hour mean he's a director who's always been someone to keep an eye on. However Lee really has his work cut out for him with this remake of Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, one the most audacious films of the past decade. Wild and unforgettable, the original went from South Korean cult favourite to global phenomenon, and currently resides at number 80 in the IMDb's Greatest Films list.

In Lee's Oldboy Josh Brolin stars as Joe Doucett. He's a degenerate advertising executive who, after a particularly disastrous bender, wakes up to find himself in an inescapable hotel room – his home for the next 20 years. While he languishes inside, his ex-wife is murdered – a crime for which he's framed – and his infant daughter is taken into care. On release Joe is tasked with unravelling the mystery of his imprisonment. He's assisted by social worker Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olsen), while Michael Imperioli plays his friend Chucky, and Sharlto Copley and Samuel L Jackson are his foes.

Unfortunately there's little to get excited about this time round. Gone is the original's frenzied urgency and, with the fundamental set-up remaining the same, if you're familiar with the 2003 film there's negligible suspense; it's a mystery thriller without the mystery. Also missing is the murky, maniacal wit, meaning Lee's version is a lot less fun. In line with the remake's more severe approach Brolin is a stoic, less chaotic protagonist, although the appealing Olsen provides much-needed emotional immediacy. 2013's Oldboy is not totally devoid of style or ideas but it would be foolish to suggest that this should be seen first, if at all. Frankly Lee can do much better than this pale imitation.

General release from Fri 6 Dec.

OLDBOY Official Trailer (2013) Spike Lee Remake - Red Band


  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 44min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Spike Lee
  • Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson
  • UK release: 6 December 2013

Joe Doucett (Brolin) is a degenerate ad executive who's imprisoned in a hotel room for 20 years, during which time his wife is killed and his daughter put in care. Lee's remake of Park Chan-wook's audacious 2003 thriller lacks the urgency and wit of the original, and altogether it's a pale imitation.