This isn’t going to be like most of the useless reviews of Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake that you’ve already seen. It has been a long enough time since I have seen the original Oldboy, so that I can review this film on its own standing, and not spend the bulk of the review convincing you that the original is a better film. We’re not here to talk about the original, so why waste people’s time? I will make one mention of the original film, but not for the sake of comparison. It’s more to pose a question. Why did Spike Lee bother with remaking such a recognizable cult film, if he gave as little of a fuck about the original property as his take on the film suggests that he did? I’m not a person that hates remakes. You have plenty of websites you can visit for that kind of nonsense. In fact, I’m usually the one put into the position to defend films like this, at least when they deserve it. I’m not the world’s biggest Spike Lee fan, to begin with. He’s made a couple of noteworthy films, but he’s made a bunch of crap, too. With all of the classic foreign cinema, ripe for the picking for an Americanized remake, why would a director such as Lee, pick something like Oldboy, when he so clearly has little to no respect for what the original film accomplished?
Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that we’ll ever get an answer to that question. But, it is what it is. The film has been made, and now it will soon be released to DVD & Blu-ray, so let us talk about it a little bit, and you can decide for yourself if you’d like to spare any of your time for the purpose of viewing Spike Lee’s Oldboy. First of all, as you already know, Josh Brolin is one fuck of an actor. Elizabeth Olsen is a great actor. Samuel Jackson is a certified badass. Sharlto Copley was fucking great in both Niel Blompkamp’s Sci-Fi epics in which he appears. From the outside looking in, it would appear that almost every person involved in this film, has the chops to do some amazing things. It’s unfortunate, that none of those great things happen within the running time of Spike Lee’s Oldboy. To be fair to the actors involved, they very much work within the confines of what they’ve been given. The written dialog in this film is some of the worst I’ve heard for a long, long time. I understand, when you have Sam Jackson in one of your movies, you want him to loudly say some outlandish, profanity-filled things that people will quote for years to come. However, if people will quote anything from his character in Oldboy, it will not be due to the brilliance of the quote, it will be due to how amazingly terrible, some of the things that came out of his mouth were. “Booger eatin’, piss drinkin’ motherfucker” is not a phrase that should be uttered in any film that wasn’t written by Scarlet Fry. Let alone something any director should have coming out of the mouth of one of the most prolific badasses in cinema history.
Sharlto Copley, buddy, what’s going on? I loved you so much in District 9, and despite not being much of a fan of Elysium, I still think you could have been a badass in that movie, had they not reduced your presence to a few key scenes. I have never been more disappointed with what I once perceived to be an up-and-comer worthy of keeping tabs. Granted, I’ve yet to see the other movie he appeared in in 2013, Open Grave, but one can only hope that it is leagues better than the cookie-cutter, cartoon caricature portrayal of a “bad guy” that he has turned in here. There is nothing wrong with Elizabeth Olden’s performance. She is great, and beautiful, and yes, in case you were wondering, she does get naked in Oldboy. Please keep doing films, Elizabeth, just choose them more wisely in the future, and you’ll be just fine. No more Spike Lee, should be rule number one.
Anyone that’s made it up until this point of the review, probably thinks I’m going to give some crazy low score to Spike Lee’s Oldboy. That I hated it, and that it has no redeeming qualities. That’s not the case. This is going to be a middle of the road review, but I’m going to be honest with you here, this movie has more problems than anything else. Most of the entertainment factor comes from the unintentionally funny moments, as well as the overwhelming sense of detachment, from almost all of the actors involved. Clearly the film Spike Lee was making was not described with his actors, because they appear to be in a completely different film than what they thought they were making at the time. Spike Lee Half-assedly churned out this remake, and we’ll never know why. I’m not much familiar with Lee’s directorial style. Some directors are directors of actors, and some, wrongly, as you’ll see, assume that they have someone like Sam Jackson on their cast, so they just let them do whatever it is they want to do. If the director is phoning it in, it’s going to appear that all involved with the production were doing the same. Sam Jackson in particular seems to have no idea where he is at. It appeared that he was instructed, to just go into a room, and string together some random profanity. And, so that he does.
The film looks good, there aren’t really any complaints in that department. There are some exciting fight sequences, and in a few instances, some interesting camerawork. However, just because you have the power to do overly long tracking shots, doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good idea. In some instances, it not only works, but it takes the viewer’s breath away. Say, for example, the last part of the most recently aired episode of HBO’s crime anthology series, True Detective. That is the perfect example, of cinematographer and director, knowing how to properly execute that type of shot. No such consideration went into the directed photography of this film.
I did not hate Spike Lee’s Oldboy. But, my reasons for enjoying have little to do with the quality of the film, and more to do with my morbid sense of humor. As mentioned, there are a few exciting scenes, some extremely violent scenes, some of which ruined with bad CGI, and Elizabeth Olsen single handedly makes the entire movie worth watching, for both her presence, her natural beauty, and the fact that she gets all of her gear off within the film. It’s a shame that she poured so much of herself into a film of this caliber, but I have no doubts in my mind that she will be back soon in a better film, and perhaps she will opt to make us weirdos happy once more, with a terrific performance, and maybe even another peep show.
Who do I think should view Spike Lee’s Oldboy? Well, it’s certainly not one for the hipsters. If you lack any and all ability to suspend disbelief, to separate yourself from the original film, or to control your emotions like an adult, and view the film through non-nostalgic eyes, then you may as well just put it out of your head that Spike Lee ever remade Oldboy. Because there is nothing for you to see here, and it will just hurt your butts, more than anything else. However, if you have these abilities, if you are one of the few of us left that are able to watch a movie objectively, and truly not have decided whether or not you love it or hate it before you even press the play button, then I will just simply tell you, that I have seen worse movies this week, than Spike Lee’s Oldboy. So, at the very least, you will survive your viewing. I have heard from some people that actually enjoyed the film, and to that, I say, more power to you. It’s not one that I’m likely to revisit anytime in the near future, but I do think it is one that should be watched before being discounted. Whether or not you’ve seen the original film, will clearly play some sort of role in how you feel about this remake. However, I don’t think it’s really a situation where, if a person is unfamiliar with the original, they are more likely to enjoy this update, because most of the complaints, as you’ve read here with me, have nothing to do with this being a remake, and everything to do with legitimate complaints, of what can only be described as half-assed filmmaking.