Oldboy (2013) (R)

This is a guest review by KJ Craig.

Seeing as this movie is a remake this review shall be in two parts: The movie as it stands alone, and its comparison to the original. This review may contain spoilers! And bear with me: It’s my first review.

It’s 1993 and Joe Doucett is a total scumbag. That’s what the first part of the film is trying to show you. Alcoholic. Lousy father that’s constantly fighting with his ex-wife. Not a bad business man… Until his scummy-ness ruins that too. At the end of day it begins to hit Joe what a terrible person he is and he continues trying to numb it out with vodka. He’s banging on the doors of his best friend’s bar when suddenly a stereotypical Asian skank pops out of the blue. 

The next thing we see is Joe waking up in what is believed to be a hotel room set up with a nice bathroom and television along with 3 square meals of dumplings and vodka a day. He quickly realizes he can’t get out which is followed by screaming and pouting [But you can’t help but laugh at him because he’s such a jerk]. Days later, Joe watches the TV in horror to see that his ex-wife was raped and killed… His very own DNA found at the scene and his daughter, Mia, left orphaned. He’s much more concerned with the orphaned daughter part. 

A television series called “Unsolved Mysteries of Crime”, which supposedly is about Joe and his disappearance, follows his daughter as she grows up with her adopted parents. I suppose Joe was full enough of himself he found “his” crime to be the only one worthy of the show. Joe strives to be better for her, writing her letters daily. He stops drinking and begins working out like a mad man. Somehow with some 80’s Pilates and a couple of pillows he turned into a Red Bull athlete. Suddenly, 20 years after Joe’s capture, he’s released back into the world. He begins looking for Mia along with answers to why he’s been imprisoned. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I really enjoyed how the film was edited and put together. I thought it kept up its fast pacing without leaving out necessary details. The dialogue wasn’t anything special but it got the point across. Samuel L. Jackson, who seems to be in everything these days, was a comic relief to the intensity of the film… However, I think there was too much laughter had. It took away from the dangerous situations Joe was put into. Part of the fun I have with films like this is feeling that intensity along with the characters, but the director didn’t allow this with all the comedy mixed in.

Alright, now onto the part I really wanted to do: The comparison. Critics have been saying the remake was unnecessary. I do agree with that, due to the fact I only think remakes are a grand idea if a great concept was butchered by a director [like Evil Dead… the remake stunk but I can’t blame them for trying] OR if film making has advanced so much the film would be massively improved [like King Kong, even if we don’t talk about that thing from the 80’s]. Oldboy falls into neither category. However, without a better way to say it, this film was much more American than the original: More action, more comedy, and the fact that all Asians are dressed up in costumes you would find displayed at your local Japanese steakhouse. 

Concepts seemed to make more sense, but I believe this could be a culture understanding more than mere different directing. The lack of ninja skill overlooked with comedic moments. The story was altered slightly to make this film more modern… Up until the very end. Things took a dramatically different turn and I prefer this ending with great muchness. Although references were made, I was saddened by the fact most of the shocking moments of the original were simply taken out. Yes, those moments were unnecessary, but they were also iconic and a huge part of what made the original so memorable. 

Overall: It’s not the best film ever, but I was thoroughly entertained and didn’t regret spending money on it. The movie wasn’t nearly as intense as the original, but flowed much more smoothly and was easier to understand with an ending that made much more sense.

3 out of 4 stars.

Note: Here is the link to my review of the original: Oldboy ~ Movie Micah

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