Movie Review: Oldboy (2013)- Another Pointless Remake that Loses All Sense of Thrilling Subtlety and Thematic Messaging Due to Spike Lee’s Mismanaged Direction

OldboyVengeance begets vengeance has been a tragic theme in the works of South Korean auteur Chan-Wook Park and was a thought that was expressed rather eloquently in his adaptation of the manga comic Oldboy metaphorically using a damaged portrait of a laughing man that stated underneath, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.” In Park’s second chapter of his “Vengeance Trilogy” he made a brutal reflection on the cyclical consequences of sought out vengeance through his protagonist Oh Dae-Su who becomes a modern day Oedipus Rex where the embodiment of an ancient Greek tragedy becomes a modern day moral parable delivered through a pristinely cinematic and impeccably constructed mystery thriller. Because of its subtlety in buildup, its gritty almost alienating presentation, and of course its haunting twist end, Oldboy has left a riveting mark on cinema that could never be duplicated no matter who erroneously dared to tackle such an ill-advised feat. But leave it to a vastly overrated director such as Spike Lee to throw caution to the wind by taking such a well-constructed template and leave behind all sense of subtlety, impact, and thematic messaging that the original film had replacing it all with a group of paradoxes, including energetic numbness and overstated allegory. On the one end of Lee’s inert adaptation written by the remake harbinger of doom Mark Protosevich (Poseidon, I Am Legend) there is a thriller with little to no engagement that substitutes carefully placed clues for direct overemphasis and on the other is just another messily executed remake that was made solely for people unwilling to think and apparently unwilling to read (subtitles that is). There might be some decently crafted cinematic sequences thanks to Steve McQueen’s go to cinematographer Sean Bobbitt but with each pristine image there is a loss of message due to Spike Lee’s tremendously misguided direction and inability to perceptively understand the intent of Oldboy’s entire purpose for existence. Audiences who are entering the theater without any bias towards Chan-Wook Park’s phenomenally made reflection on cyclical vengeance will undoubtedly walk away with an inundated sense of confusion and an apathetic numbness to the events that transpired in Lee’s version because being shocking for shock’s sake doesn’t translate into the haunting impact that the original intended and delivered. The remake of Oldboy in the hands of the creatively ineffective Spike Lee has turned a deeply haunting morality play into an Americanized thriller where the responsibility to think is replaced with overstatement to coddle you through the events and thematic nuance has been turned into a repetitive hammer to the head much like the one used repeatedly in the film itself.

More detailed review coming soon.

Grade: C-

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