Not pictured: The part of the film that makes you hate humanity.
Spike Lee’s Oldboy will make you hate humanity. Okay maybe not hate but trust me this isn’t the kind of movie you take a first date on. Unless you’re going out with a Suicide Girl. I walked into Spike Lee’s Oldboy with very little knowledge of the first film other than that most people who have seen it consider it a classic and that it always shows up on those lists of sick twisted films that I need to avoid. But when I heard that Spike was involved in a reimagining of the film I felt I needed to check it out. That and the fact that I got free passes to a press screening. Hey I’m a FanBro, FanBros love free stuff. Also we interviewed Spike Lee for our podcast so you know I figured I might want to check out his movie as well. Hey I’m a FanBro, Fanbros love a shameless plug.
Oldboy tells the story of Joe Doucett an advertising executive who is presented to us as a bit of a douchebag. Actually douchebag might disrespectful to douchebags everywhere, Joe is a straight up bastard. Early in the film it’s shown that he cares very little about his soon to be ex wife and daughter, and decides to celebrate his closing of a make it or break it deal by hitting on the wife of the man who just saved his career. Yeah Joe is the definition of giving no fucks.
Worry not though for Joe is quickly visited by a magical negro who helps him see the error of his ways and redeem himself in the eyes of his family, his employer, and the good Lord above. No no no, that’s another film. Instead, Joe is abducted by a mysterious woman and left in what resembles a cheap motel room. Yeah this is that kind of movie. Joe handles this abduction fairly well, as he is provided with food, a television and writing utensils and his number one friend in life, a steady supply of cheap vodka . After certain shall we say developments during his imprisonment Joe decides to abandon old faithful and get addicted to an even better drug, the sweet sweet idea of revenge served as cold as ice. With his new found focus and cable television’s steady supply of action movies and workout videos Joe trains away in the room while he plots his eventual escape.
What happens after Joe gets out of the room makes up the second half of the film, and let me say that Spike serves up that dish of cold revenge quite well, with several great action set pieces. One of these is the well known hammer fight sequence that people know the original for, and Spike doesn’t disappoint with his version. In fact having seen the original after watching Spike’s, I have to say that this might be Mr. Lee’s best action sequence especially as he is not known for his fight scenes, unless you count Frank Vincent putting that belt to Anabella Sciorra in Jungle Fever.
Simon Phoenix has seen better days.
I don’t know how to describe Oldboy in terms of good or bad, as I said before it has moments in it that will make you hate humanity, and the twist ending is so disturbing that I left the film feeling like I needed a cold shower. But it is well directed and acted, with Josh Brolin putting in a star turn as Joe Doucett, and his nemesis Shartlto Copley bringing just the right amount of sick depraved insanity to his role. Spike brings the Inside Man game back to this one and it’s always nice to see him direct without the politics that are more apparent in the Spike Lee Joints. That’s not to say that this doesn’t have its fair share of politics and underlying themes, but that is something that I wish more filmmakers brought to their projects.
Don’t forget to check our interview with Spike Lee himself here!!!