Judging by the Trailer: "Oldboy"

By Rev. Adam McKinney on November 27, 2013

Back in 2005, I was a projectionist at The Grand Cinema. It was a heady time of passionate discussions on music and film, and it was the time when I was most steeped in difficult and adventurous art. Somehow, I stumbled across as film called Oldboy - a classic of extreme Korean cinema. Oldboy is impeccably stylish, darkly comedic, viscerally violent, and staggeringly emotional. It's pulp filmmaking elevated to high art.

It was such an eye-opening film that I endeavored to convince my friends and co-workers to seek it out, but I was met with stubborn refusal. "Sounds too violent," they'd say. At the time, my co-workers were embedded in a world of quirk and indie lite, though I suspect that they also just got kick out of getting me worked up. When a polar-bear-and-Bjork-loving friend accidentally ended up watching it, the review wasn't great, so to this day I have never succeeded in spreading the gospel of Oldboy.

Cut to 2013 and Oldboy's inevitable American remake. Justin Lin was originally attached to direct, but he thankfully became too busy with the Fast and the Furious franchise to be bothered, so what we find ourselves with is a Spike Lee joint.

On the surface, everything appears to be in its right place. A drunken lout (this time played by Josh Brolin) wakes up to find himself imprisoned in a motel room, where he is then held for many years before finally being released without explanation. From then on, the freed man is sent on a journey for revenge, to find out who kidnapped him and why. Even the infamous hallway fight scene seems to have been recreated.

The question that will never leave my mind is a plaintive "Why?" Why bother doing this? The Oldboy of yore is propulsive enough to win over any subtitle averse moviegoer, yet America had to get its grubby little hands all over it. I respect Spike Lee quite a bit as a director, and perhaps this will turn out as well as Scorsese's Americanized version of Infernal Affairs (AKA The Departed), or the perfectly adequate Americanized version of Let the Right One In (dumbly shortened to Let Me In).

But, until then, I'll just have to wait and throw my movie-nerd hissy fit until I finally get the chance to see our new Oldboy, arms huffily crossed.

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