Sunday, August 31, 2014

Film Review: Oldboy (2013)

Oldboy (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it's not a bad film because it's a remake, it's simply a bad film."

In 1993, advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is mysteriously kidnapped and imprisoned in a hotel-like room. After 20 years, he's released and forced to find out why and who abducted him.

Oldboy follows Joe. He doesn't do much in the hotel-like room, but witness world events from his television. Eventually, he starts to train for his "redemption." And so, he's released, and he goes on his mission for vengeance. He's aided by a nurse named Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), and soon afterward meets The Stranger (Sharlto Copley), who's responsible for Joe's kidnapping. At this point, Joe tries to find out the aforementioned why and who. Not much mystery, though, thanks to the handy iPhone. He beats and kills some people, then meets up with The Stranger for the climax. The idea behind the climax packs a punch, but the execution is flawed; it has no burn, it happens in a snap without any buildup whatsoever. The ending was also weak.

Oldboy is a disappointing revenge thriller. A remake of Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, this film tries to differentiate itself, but always comes off as half-baked -- it always ends up in the same place as the original. The film ends up suffering from these slight changes because it makes the story feel extremely contrived; it also cuts the natural flow and consistency in the story, so the scenes feel disconnected. Unfortunately, there isn't much mystery here, either. The power of the internet and iPhone basically hands everything to Joe -- there is no investigation, and it makes it feel too simple. The film overall lacks the subtly in character and story, as well; it's in your face and shoved down your throat, without any character depth or proper story development.

As I stated previously, there is a severe lack of suspense and tension. This makes the daring climax feel forgettable, and it causes the rest of the film to drag. You'll often ask yourself: "Was that important? Was that the climax?" However, there are some exciting and bloody action scenes. Joe comes out of his prison as the Hulk, he can use his fierce punches and kicks to launch his opponents and snap necks. Okay, it's not very realistic, I know, but it's at least decent. It also, ironically, gives the film some life -- it helps you wake up. The violence is hindered by the obvious computer effects, though; why use the obvious computer blood?

The acting was mediocre. Josh Brolin is decent, but when the role becomes demanding, he just can't hit the high notes. Sharlto Copley was surprisingly bad -- I'm not sure what he was aiming for, but he was laughable. Elizabeth Olsen is a saving grace, despite her limited screen time. The film is shot nicely; I thought the cinematography was good. The music was mediocre, though; it's a very standard and generic soundtrack, especially compared to the original. Director Spike Lee lacks a confident and distinct vision. I get the feeling he didn't want to make this film. I think the studio and producers wanted this film to be made as soon as possible and picked a random director out of a hat, and Spike Lee was the unlucky one. It's just a too generic, too soulless film to be a Spike Lee film.

Overall, Oldboy is a bad film. And it's not a bad film because it's a remake, it's simply a bad film. The story is contrived, bland and disconnected; the climax is poorly setup and rushed; the acting is bad, as is the music. As a standalone film, it's bad; as a remake, it's half-assed and uninspired. If you absolutely hate subtitles and dubs (i dislike the latter myself), you might find some enjoyment from this film. Otherwise, stick to the far superior original.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, sex and nudity.

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