Skip to content

‘Oldboy’ Looks Like a New Man

Hello loyal OOU.netties! If you haven’t known already, Spike Lee, director of the likes of The Inside Man and Malcolm X, is doing a remake of a little Korean revenge film called Oldboy, originally directed by Chan-Wook Park. The original film premiered in 2003, and the press was taken by storm. The general consensus essentially says that the film is brilliantly shocking and beautifully twisted, always keeping you guessing where this narrative is going. Fast forward 10 years later, and it seems like Oldboy is back in black! This time, it seems like Mr. Lee is taking a more grounded and gritty approach to this tale of vengeance, while adding some dark humor via Samuel L. Jackson (no pun intended).



The lovely folks at IGN were able to visit the set during their filming in New Orleans. They said that the scenes they were filming didn’t show them much, but they were able to sit down with the director, cast, and writer, and probe them for what it is they are trying to accomplish with this remake. This is what Spike had to say about it:

“I call it a reinterpretation. Now, you can have Oscar Hammerstein’s ‘My Favorite Things,’ but when John Coltrane played that, that sh*t sounds different. You know, it’s different. It’s a great film, but this is going to be a reinterpretation. It’s not Julie Andrews singing ‘My Favorite Things.’ It’s John Coltrane who’s playing it! That’s the way I look at it.”

Also, Josh Brolin who plays the main titular character also briefly mentioned what Chan-Wook Park had to say on the matter of this remake:

“Spike and I have been friends for a few years now and this came up. It sounded like a good idea but I felt I needed to get the blessing of Chan-wook Park before I did it. So I called him and said, ‘What do you think of us doing this?’ Then he said, ‘Absolutely. F***ing love remakes.’ He said just don’t do it the same and that was kind of a paranoia that I think we all had.”

I am a HUGE fan of the original because of a plethora of reasons. One of them being its distinctive style. The cinematography and its mise-en-scène (ugh, excuse the pretentiousness) have a very Asian flare to it. The sense of symmetry in the way Chan-Wook Park works with the camera and the blocking of his actors is very hypnotic. There will be scenes that will make your jaw drop, and then shatter it with a hammer.

My favorite aspect of the film of course, is its story. The premise is simple. A guy gets kidnapped and contained for 15 years, and then gets released by his captor with a lot of money. His captor then wants him to figure out who he is, and why he contained him. As the story unfolds, it becomes very complicated and pretty fucked up. There will be moments of revelation that will shock you. The story, amidst its twisted violence that almost feels Shakespearean in the way Mr. Park executes it, really has this poetic center. It has this certain contemplation about revenge, and proposes the dilemma of how far can someone take revenge to the point where it isn’t worth it, and ends up destroying your life. It isn’t saying that revenge is bad, but rather that it is meaningless, because in the deadly game of vengeance, in the end nobody wins.

Original film aside, I am pretty excited about this remake, solely from the words being said by Lee and Brolin. It seems like they aren’t trying to cash in and ride on the coattails of Park’s masterpiece, but rather they felt genuinely compelled to tell their own version of this story. Lee’s analogy about the different jazz musicians, combined with them actually having the blessing from Chan-Wook Park calms my nerves quite a bit. Before you groan, saying that this will be a masterpiece being ruined by being Americanized, let me make two quick points:

1. Spike Lee is a bit of a controversial director to say the least. He is known to have a radical pro African American agenda, and almost seems schizophrenic in his choice of projects. He goes from directing 4 Little Girls, a serious documentary about the racial terrorist bombing of an African American church, to Bamboozled, a blatant criticism and borderline hate letter to how African Americans are represented in the media, to The Inside Man, which was a really bad-ass heist film, that in my opinion, put an original spin on the genre. So this guy isn’t necessarily what you would call the poster child of Hollywood. However, if you give him the right material, he has the potential to create something pretty good.

2. There has been American remakes of foreign films that are actually good. David Fincher’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was made within the same spirit of the original, and did it justice. It is arguable that the film is basically the exact same movie, but you can tell that Mr. Fincher put in his own stylistic twists to make it feel just different enough. A better example would be Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. That film was a remake of the Chinese film Infernal Affairs, and BOTH films are phenomenal. The Departed went on to win Oscars for best motion picture, and best adapted screenplay.

So who knows? This film has the potential to be something pretty good. I am cautiously excited! What about you guys? Whatever it is, comment below, let One of Us know!