“Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free…”
If you were held captive and isolated for no obvious reason for 20 years you’d probably be very, very angry when finally released.
Almost as angry, in fact, as if someone had the cheek to remake one of the more provocative, visceral cult-classic thrillers out there and turn into a scene-by-scene exercise in badly-judged tedium.
Just when you thought it was safe to venture back to the cinema in the light of some recent remakes not being complete rubbish, along comes Spike Lee with what could be the worst film of the year.
The original Oldboy, released in 2003, was a kinetically charged, twisted, revenge-em-up from Korea that packed a seriously sick sting in the tail.
Directed by Chan-wook Park, who made this year’s excellent Stoker, it delivered a cinematic shock to the system.
Alas, although the 2013 US version is equally nasty it lacks any redeeming features despite a cast including Josh ‘No Country For Old Men’ Brolin in the lead, supported by Elizabeth ‘Red Lights’ Olsen, Sharlto ‘District 9’ Copely and the mighty Samuel L. Jackson.
The grim tale features Joe Doucette (Brolin), kidnapped and locked in solitary confinement for 20 years.
With just a TV for company his days are spent watching crime, keep fit and martial arts shows, and he devotes his energies to working out and honing his body so that, should he ever get the chance of revenge, he will be well prepared.
One day, without explanation, he is released and begins an obsessive quest to hunt down whoever imprisoned him.
But things aren’t all they seem and as his violent odyssey for answers continues Joe discovers that the real mystery might be just why he was set free.
Most of the scenes from the original are faithfully recreated, even the much discussed and admired comic book-esque thug battle.
But this is a lacklustre effort that fails to commit to the manic over the top spirit required to pull off such a mind-bending plot.
Spike Lee is an accomplished director, so one can only wonder at his thinking here.
Take this as a warning – there should be only one Oldboy and it’s the original. Do not fall for the vapid attraction of this counterfeit cinematic tripe.