Ah.. Hollywood remakes… which way will this one go.. good or bad…
Back in my post university days, flush with cash having a job and still living at home with minimum bills to pay I would routinely go through the DVD reviews in Empire or Total Film Magazine and find films to buy.. not just the mainstream blockbusters (they were easy to pick up) but the plan was to find some hidden gems. I found myself getting more foreign films as time went on, and in 2003 a Korean film was recommended – Oldboy..
Notorious at the time for the scene where he ate a live octopus, the story was captivating and the twist at the end was epic.. as far as I can remember…
Roll on 10 years and Hollywood, well into their foreign film remake season (girl with the dragon tattoo had been part of it, Horror film Ring, amongst others also) plucked out OldBoy to remake with Josh Brolin taking on the main part of Joe Doucett. I was keen at the time to see it, however never made it until a few days ago (the joys of Netflix!)
15 years since the original – nearly as long as Brolin is imprisoned for in the film (20 years) only to be let out and go on a one man mission to find out who put him there and why.. my brain being fairly useless had forgotten pretty much all of the original film, bar the two points mentioned above.. nice nod to the octopus in the restaurant scene but no eating live animals this time round.
The story hold fairy true to the original (after I watched it, I re-read the plot on Wikipedia for the original.) Very little artistic licence was used in changing the plot points. Doucett is captured one night while drunk and imprisoned in a room with no exit. Food is posted through a hole in the bottom of a door and a TV plays snippits of news and other stories where we see that his wife was killed and Doucett is the main suspect. After 20 years he is released, alongside a phone to try and figure out what happened to him. The captor reveals himself half way through telling Doucett that if he can tell him who he is, and why he was captured in 48 hours he will confess to the murder of his wife.
I will leave the story as open as this as it is truly a film you have to see to understand it, alongside its epic twist (still ok second time round, even if the impact is lessened somewhat). The performances of Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen are good and Sharlto Copley does an excellent portrayal as “The Stranger” – the one who captured Joe.
All in all, actually quite a good remake – the scene in the first film where he takes on a gang with just a hammer is repeated, albeit feels a little out of place – stylistically, it changed from being a intense suspense drama, to a slightly wacky asian martial arts film before jumping back.. a little jarring, but nothing crippling.
Go and check it out.