Should there really be an American Oldboy remake? To really understand this question we must first understand the uniqueness of the Korean version of the film. The plot of the film is: After 15 years of imprisonment without explanation, Oh Dae-su only has 5 days to uncover the truth and seek revenge, but in order to do so he must first play his captors game. Just like last time there will be spoilers, but I hope to keep it to a minimum. So without further adieu, this is my thoughts on Oldboy.
The Set Up
Oldboy is a truly unique movie with an artistic look at violence and vengeance. The story for Oldboy was first found in the pages of a Japanese manga by the same name. I haven't read the manga myself but I would assume that the two would have their differences. Oldboy has gained a huge cult following in the years since it's release, with top critics reviewing the movie at an overall B, and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81%. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and just how haunting the plot turned out to be. It's a mysterious film with great direction and the driving force of a mystery that you yourself desperately want to uncover. The main character of the film is Oh Dae-su, a businessman who is randomly abducted one day after his friend Joo-hwan came to pick him up from the police station. Dae-su was severely drunk so he and Joo-hwan stopped at a payphone and to call home and let Dae-su's wife know that he'll be home shortly. Joo-hawn turned around to let Dae-su speak to his wife and he was gone, like he had just vanished. Next we find him imprisoned in what looks like a hotel room complete with shower and sink. There is also an aged painting with the phrase "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone." inscribed on it. Dae-su is desperately trying to figure out why someone would want to abduct him and imprison him like this. We next see Dae-su receiving food through a doggie door, which he is trying to climb out of, clawing at the feet of a man who is trying to shove a tray of food into his room. The man kicks his head and arm, which he managed to get out as well, back in and kicks the food in as well. Dae-su throws a fit and hurls his food and tray at the door, it is also in this scene we find out he has already been locked up for three months. This raises the question, what would you do if someone kidnapped you, imprisoned you, fed you, groomed you, and watched you every day for fifteen years, and you had no idea why? No warning, no clues, and no idea how this could ever happen to you. Dae-su eventually spends 15 years in that hell-hole. In that time he tattooed a tally mark on his body for each year of his imprisonment, he used a single chopstick to work away at the brick on the wall next to his bed, mentally and physically trained himself to fight and seek revenge, and wrote memories of his time spent there and of the people he had wronged in his life. The film does a brilliant job at describing the hell he endured alone in the room for so long. He started envisioning ants crawling out of his skin. He even tried to kill himself a couple of times, but every attempt was thwarted by his mysterious captors, each time they managed to nurse him back to health. After nearly 15 years of being trapped in that room, and 15 years of digging through mortar and drywall with a single chopstick, Dae-su managed to scrape his way to the outside. Through a small hole, where a brick once was, his hand emerges to feel rain, his first contact with the outside world in so long. He then exclaims that he'll be able to dig his way out in one month. This was a perfect set up to establish the mood of the film.
What I Liked
What I loved about this movie was the dialog. Some of the greatest lines I've ever heard in cinema came from this movie. "Even though I'm no better than a beast. Don't I, too, have the right to live? " "If they had told me it was going to be fifteen years, would it have been easier to endure?" and my personal favorite "Keep this in mind: Whether a grain of sand or a rock, in water they both sink alike." Unfortunately I cannot speak Korean so I read the subtitles, and I'm sure that it wasn't translated into English 100% perfect, but from what I read/heard,... I loved it. The actors in the film delivered their lines with such intensity, whether it's the dark and brutal intensity of Oh Dae-su, or the quite and menacing intensity of Lee Woo-jin (Dae-su's captor). I'm not gonna lie, Woo-jin totally reminded me of a Korean version of Edward Nigma! With the way he was able to manipulate and know Dae-su's every move before he made it, and with his creepy and psychopathic demeanor. Although I can't give all of the credit to the cast, I have to give some to the person responsible for the direction the film took, Chan-wook Park. Honestly this is the first film I've seen of his, but if every movie he makes looks like this, I'm hooked! The feeling this film emits is one of a dark and brutal tale of vengeance and the search for the truth, and I'm a sucker for revenge flicks. (Silly Caucasian girl likes to play with samurai swords.) After all, my favorite director is Quentin Tarantino. I'm honestly wondering if all of Chan-wook Park's films follow this same pattern, if so, I'm liking this mans weapon of choice! (Excuse the Pun) It's easy to take such a simple plot and make a C rated action flick with a couple big named stars, but what he did instead was add layer after layer of emotion and fear until he shrouded you with mystery and suspense. He wove an intricate web with only using one strand of string, and the ending totally blew my mind. When I say "the ending blew my mind" I don't mean I never guess what happened in the end, if you're clever enough you'll figure that out pretty early, but rather how much it catches me off guard. In the final sequence of the film we get to see Lee Woo-jin's finale to his master plan finally unfold. Woo-jin spent a long time designing this demented plot of destruction, and he was going to see it though to the end. The dialog in this sequence was also very good, with Woo-jin making many subtle references to Oh Dae-su's tongue. (Can I say foreshadowing?) But the part that truly caught me off guard was the scene where *SPOILER* Oh Dae-su took a pair of scissors and cut out his own tounge to keep Mi-do (his love interest throughout the film) from knowing the truth. That was completely unexpected, and quite frankly brilliant.
Yes! Hollywood is going to in fact remake the movie into an American version, with Spike Lee setting at the directors chair and Josh Brolin sitting at the helm of a soon to be renamed Oh Dae-su as Joe Douchett. Now, even though I'm not a fan of american remakes of foreign films (although Let Me In, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were both pretty good) I am liking the direction that Hollywood wants to go with it. Lee is known for his controversial films, for example his 1989 classic Do The Right Thing, and Brolin is a well established actor that can hold his own. There are very few actors that I can see portraying an american Oh Dae-su, and in all honesty he's one. I do believe though that Hollywood will go all "big budget" on the movie, and take away some of what made the Korean version so suspenseful. They might go for more of a dark, gory, shocking aspect instead. Either way, I do hope that it will keep some of the same scenes that made the movie so thrilling. (*cough* Epic side scroll hallway fight scene *cough*) This film certainly has some big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, there isn't anymore news on the movie except that it is expected to have a 2014 release date.
I give Oldboy a solid 5 out of 5 stars and I would say that this film is defiantly worth seeing at least once, especially if you're a fan of revenge movies. The film is a defiant classic and will hopefully stand the test of time. What do you think? Did you like the original Oldboy? Has this made you want to see it? Do you think we're ready for an Americanized version of the film? Do you believe that Spike Lee and Josh Brolin can meet expectations? Write your thoughts and comments down below, they're much appreciated. Thanks for reading!