Spike Lee’s remake of Korean revenge thriller Oldboy has none of the spark of the original, writes Mark Kermode
I never read the review or look at the trailer before watching the film if I can help it - saying that - this film was just so…. tragic…maybe I should have done. I know it was supposed to be adapted from the Manga… but then why retell the Incest Story with a number of (convoluted) twists…. why have such a large death toll…. and why replicate the motifs/scenes from Park’s film that are missing from the manga?
I don;t think that it’s the fault of the actors:
I liked Park’s film because it had an extra layer of surreality for me by being a non-English language film ( I do not speak Korean) - I HAD to pay attention to the whole story, I had to think and watch the actors very carefully…
And after this layer of language was peeled away, the film still shocked, excited and horrified me. The vicious story line, the suspense and the contrasting characters (stoicism v passion) blended together to create a wonderful yet uncomfortable film.
But the remake - jesus - it was just completely void of suspense; the characters evolved into simplistic caricatures, and frankly, the incest story was just ridiculous… and cliched and I couldn’t stop cringing and wondering why it was like something out of a bad hillbilly horror movie… I mean really… seriously… some bullshit about how we treasured our love with our father’ or something or other… where was the drama there? Where was the shame of the sibling? Was that not the motivating force of Park’s film - the shame of the sister that cut away and drove the brother to deny their relationship as sinful or accept responsibility? Wasn’t that WHY he embarked on his journey of revenge?
I wanted so very much to like the film because I loved the original and I do not believe all remakes are terrible. But I didn’t love the film. I actually laughed when the reasons for the imprisonment were revealed….
Park’s Oldboy had utter devotion to ‘forget’ his sins - to protect his love - I actually felt a genuine sympathy for the incestious bastard. But Lee’s Oldboy suddenly turned Santa and seeks redemption through little gestures and self-imposed bullshit…. it just didn’t make sense to me… t be honest - the whole remake didn’t make sense to me….