‘Oldboy,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


I’ve been a fan of Spike Lee – if not of all of his movies – for 25 years.

And I’ve found that, more often than not, he’s at his best when he’s directing someone else’s material – or someone else’s story.

It was true of “The 25th Hour,” “Malcolm X” and “The Inside Man.” And it’s absolutely true of “Oldboy,” his remake of the remarkable film by Korean director Chan-wook Park.

(Still, you’d think that Spike would have been a little more generous in the opening credits, which nod to the original film only by saying “Based on the Korean film ‘Oldboy,’ as though Park was not even part of the equation.)

Filmed in and around New Orleans, “Oldboy” stars Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett, an advertising guy with a drinking problem and a bad divorce. He’s apparently a problem womanizer because, as the film kicks in, he’s pitching a campaign to a client, then blowing the deal by coming on to the client’s wife when the guy goes to the restroom. Joe starts drinking and winds up in a blackout drunk in front of a friend’s bar.

When he comes to, he’s in a hotel room. But there’s no phone, no window – and no knob on the door. There’s a slot at the bottom of the door, through which his food is passed on a tray. And he’s got a TV that seems to play mostly exercise videos and martial-arts films.

There, he is imprisoned for years, occasionally sinking into a suicidal despair that leads him to try to take his own life. At that point, the room is filled with knock-out gas, his wounds are bound and, for good measure, his beard and head are shaved.

This review continues on my website.

Back to Top