Old Boy (Remake) – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Old Boy (remake)Old Boy (Remake) – 3/5 – I have to mention that this is a remake (in the title).  The reason I put it in the title, is because the original Old Boy is a classic to many, and for me, it holds a spot on my top 10 list of all time.  With that being said, I went into this film (knowing all the twist and back-story) tempering any comparison to the original, and judging this film on its own merits.  Even so, I will still compare certain situations to the original regardless of how I grade this film.  This version of Old Boy is a very decent thriller in its own right, but there are way too many convenient moments that make it just another rehashing of a typical thriller.

Premise: A man imprisoned for 20 years and obsessed with vengeance, Joe Doucett sets out to discover why and who kidnapped him.  Along the way, truths are revealed, emotions will rise, and the overall psyche of one man will have revelations that are more than anyone could ever imagine.

In the main role of Joe Doucett is Josh Brolin.  As the main character for this remake, he gives us a character that is very crude and disgusting in the beginning.  He is man that pries on the dark parts of the human psyche, and Brolin does a good job in showing this on screen.  This helps add layers to his ‘redemption’ road.  This path starts once he is kidnapped, and stuck in captivity for 20 years.  In this captivity, all the bigotry of his past comes out, as he learns and reforms his own values, finding a purpose to live as well as figure out who kidnapped him.  In being a broken man, Doucett is left to his own devices of his memories.  Once he is freed, he is left upon an open but confused path to find out the truth.  This mission of unraveling all the undefined things proves direr than what he thinks.  Doucett is broken further in his psyche because of what unfolds.  This is portrayed wonderfully by Brolin, as he provides raw power in interactions with certain people, as well as depth to those emotional situations.  Outside of being riveting by the story, his characterization is lackluster because it is driven by the mystery.  This prevents any strong attachment when all comes to fruition.  Outside of him, you also have the following in the other roles:

Elizabeth Olsen as Marie Sebastian

Sharlto Copley as Adrian

Samuel Jackson as Chancy

Michael Imerioli as Chucky

These actors/actresses do a fine job in providing pivotal characters that are informative and important to the story’s progression.  Even though they are important to certain parts of the film, they are still one dimensional, and only add simple flavor to the stylistic approach of their characters.  All other supporting characters are basically just infused plot devices; as they just provide a ‘checkpoint’ for Brolin’s character to get from one situation to another in the film.

When it comes to the direction of the film, it is the basic premise of any generic thriller:

Introduction of premise/conflict

Enveloping of the mystery at specific points

Puzzle of evidences formed

Big reveal/Conclusion

The film plays to this outline to the tee.  In the beginning, we are introduced to Joe Doucett.  He is a vile, repulsive advertising agent, with a lacking of family values.  Once the film positions the Doucett character and his basic development, he is then kidnapped, and stuck in a room for 20 years.  During those years, he is force feed news and information of the outside world, including the death of his ex-wife and his daughter’s living situation in a foster home.  He is then released back into the world, left with money, a phone, and a mystery to solve; why was he kidnapped and imprisoned for 20 years, and who is responsible for it.  Along the way, we get the particular aspect of ‘style over substance’ when it comes to the characterization of Joe, the motivation of the kidnapper and the purpose behind this elaborate setup.  Spike Lee does a good job in building an aura of intrigue towards the whole mystery through the use of grim situation and ‘in your face’ dialogue.  Even for this unique approach, he doesn’t provide enough substance to the material of the situation, causing a shallow reaction to any of the iconic scenes he uses from the original.  You’re left with broad stroke upon the fights, tortures, and clues of Joe’s past.  Through all of this, we still have a good bit of mystery, as we hit specific points in the film that build this puzzle.  Basically, Joe goes about discovering the truth on this general outline:

Finding information/Investigative scenario

Physical conflict with a character(s)

Emotional Exposition

Move on to next piece of the puzzle

You get an explanation at each part, but there just is a lacking of value to the unfolding mystery.  Once the film hits the third act, all the pieces fall into place.  When we get to the ultimate confrontation between Joe and his kidnapper, it is very melodramatic.  The film then moves quickly through ‘convenient’ explanation for loose threads; as the ‘big reveal’ is left as obvious shock, but undervalued; there is no shock value.  As the film concludes, it’s bittersweet for Joe Doucett, but at the same time, the ending is so underwhelming, you really don’t care what happens.

The visual of the film are intriguing, but nothing of importance.  There are some impressive stage setups (like the captive room and the general look at Doucett’s past), but with it being a modernization of the original, there isn’t anything here that will stand out or provide wealth to the story.  The score is mute at best, as it is nothing but background noise for the film.

Overall, Old Boy will have its appeal as a good thriller, but it just doesn’t do enough to be great.  With a decent cast combined with a stylistic direction, you will be entertained at best.  I’d recommend this to people of the original, or an early matinee viewing during the week.

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