Oldboy: Two Different Takes and Perspectives

Good morning ladies and gents,

This morning, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues arrived in theaters and you can find my review at http://film-addict.com/news-and-reviews/a-dose-of-buffa

Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed, needed scotch afterwards and was let down by a team of comedians that left me quoting their movie for the past 9 years.  I didn’t go in wanting the world but at least a load of laughs.  If you see a great band in concert and get crap instead, you complain.  I will post that review here on Friday but it is a click away today.  This is the film I’m talking about today….

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Today, I am posting dual takes on a movie currently in theaters called OLDBOY.  I will do something new today.   I will present two different takes of the film and they come from with additional details.  I will give my review of the film as well as present my film-addict colleague Landon Burris’ review of the film.  Here is the catch.   The movie was a remake of a 2003 Japanese film and while Burris saw the original, I did not.  I will watch it soon.  So you have a critic who saw the remake first and a critic who is seeing the remake after the original.  Interesting, right?

QUICK SETUP-Why would someone who has held you locked in a box for 20 years suddenly let you go to exact your revenge?  That is the basis of this remake of the Chan-wook Park 2003 Korean thriller.

MY TAKE-Spike Lee’s Oldboy is demented in the best way and immediately had this film-addict thinking about David Fincher’s Seven when I left the theater.  It’s an inventive piece of work and stands as one of the most brilliant thriller mysteries I have seen in a long time.

Let’s get something straight.  I haven’t seen Park’s original yet.  I wanted to give Lee the benefit of the doubt and check his remake out before steering myself towards the original.  Do me a favor before you see this film, put the original to the side and simply enjoy the brilliance of Lee’s execution of material that would scare off a dozen other A-List directors.

This isn’t sensitive material.  This is lurid, dirt sexy, bare knuckle brutal intensity and introspective storytelling that Park started 10 years ago and Josh Brolin and a perfect cast bring back to life here.

The film displays a new style of revenge that is more intricate than imagined and reminds everyone in the viewing audience that it can exist in any of us.  There are more than one kind of retribution in this world and Oldboy teaches you that here.  The template to take a crooked edge in your soul and smooth it out with justice was what brought Lee to this material and you can see how much of a fire it has lit under him.   For years, Lee hasn’t been this assured or this tight of a filmmaker in my opinion.   As Fast Eddie Felson once told another pool player, “I’m hungry again and you bled that back into me,” Lee seems to have a new tank of gas to work with here and I thank Park for that.

The action is not for the faint of heart but it’s so blunt that it will get your attention one way or another.  Hammers sticking out heads, tongues ripped from heads and the most original brand of torture I have seen in quite some time.   Every human frailty is shown in the treatment of Brolin’s captive and suddenly freed avenger.  Imagine if you were locked in a room for 20 years without knowing why.

The thing that makes this movie come together is how easy you read the misery on the faces of the characters.  The minute you see Brolin, you are reminded of how great and underrated of an actor he is.   This isn’t an easy to role to play.  Brolin’s Joe goes through every single human emotion in just under two hours and the toll is evident. Walking around like a mixed up of a young Lee Marvin and Steve McQueen, Brolin is utterly convincing as a man cut off from normal ways of operating and hell bent on answers.  His physical transformation is amazing but it’s willingness to go down the rabbit hole here that is most impressive.  Joe isn’t the world’s most likeable human being, but we follow him here because of Brolin’s rugged portrayal.  While the depravity of his character’s decision making isn’t common, you can relate to his trek.

Copley is so gifted of an actor that he can slip into any character’s skin.   Say hello to the new Hollywood chameleon folks.   Playing the string puller of the operation at hand, Copley isn’t just a bad man but something far more tragic.  He nails every single line and shows how many shades of grey lie in decades of scorn.  The truly sexy Olsen adds just enough mystery and warmth to her role and Jackson gets to command the screen for a few scenes with his usual blend of humor, anger and menace.   Imperioli does what he does best, playing low seedy greasy guys who instantly stick in your memory for all the wrong reasons.  The entire cast is so well engineered that you can tell Lee handpicked every one of them because he didn’t want to mess this mission up.

Oldboy is a fine slice of pulpy entertainment that contains more depth than expected.   While the violence is  as brutal as anything on film this year, Lee never forgets where the soul of this enterprise lies and that is reminding us that no matter how much we deny it, there is a sinister deadliness lurking in our bodies at all times.   Every decision reverberates through an entire life and stays as close to our trail as a black cat.  This movie is something else and I credit Lee, Brolin, and Copley for truly taking us all the way into the decrepit nature of human frailty.

Buffa Rating-4/5

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BURRIS’ TAKEOldBoy is the kind of film that makes cinema feel fresh again. Its lurid subject matter and ambiguous ending are not the kinds of things that find their way into American cineplexes, which is indeed why film connoisseurs often are looking to other nations, including wook-Park’s native Korea, for something fresh.

That being said Spike Lee’s new remake of OldBoy is about as fresh as last week’s leftovers for the initiated. While Lee, with star Josh Brolin in the lead role as Joe Doucett, certainly mixes up some scenes and plot details from the original, nothing he does truly surprises. In fact, the new film’s ending is much tidier and straightforward than the original’s which takes away from what made the first film so refreshing.

Lee doesn’t completely drop the ball however, Josh Brolin is every bit as good as Choi Minosik was in the first film, and is certainly the film’s biggest strength. The film’s first half, which shows Joe’s drunken scumbag ways and imprisonment, is incredibly well done and even improves on the original in some ways. Viewers feel bad for Dae-Su, but Joe is a nearly irredeemable person which makes his transformation that much more powerful.

Once Joe is unleashed on the world, the film’s quality quickly goes down the drain. The movie often feels like it’s just going through the motions. There are still some impressive sequences however, and one wonders how Spike Lee’s reportedly three hour original cut would stack up against the 104 minute product that made it to screen.

BURRIS’ REMAKE RATING-3/5

BURRIS’ ORIGINAL RATING-5/5

If you care to read Landon’s take of the original, go to his piece right here.

http://film-addict.com/news-reviews/daily-dose/item/2275-now-then-oldboy

Otherwise, have a good day and choose wisely at the cinema.   Wasted time is as useful as a chewy steak with braces.

*Reach me at buffa82@gmail.com or @buffa82 on Twitter for feedback, thoughts and comments.

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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