I feel that it is imperative for me to write this review, as I have recently learned that an American remake of this film that I once thought dead has resurfaced with a new crew attached, and after watching this film again last night, the idea of an American remake horrifies me even more than it has before. If I can stop just one person from going to see the remake, which will most likely be an abomination (for reasons I will discuss), I will feel I’ve done my job.
‘Oldboy’, quite simply, is a fucking masterpiece. Loosely based on a manga of the same name, ‘Oldboy’ was released in 2003, directed by the brilliant Park Chan-wook, this South Korean film will knock your fucking socks off. Unless you’re one of those people who won’t watch something foreign because you don’t like subtitles. If you’re one of those people, we can’t be friends, so you might want to go read something else.
‘Oldboy’ is about a man named Oh Dae-su, who is kidnapped one night and locked in a small room, with only a television for company. He is not told why he has been imprisoned, or for how long he will be there. During his imprisonment, he learns from the television that his wife has been murdered, his daughter has been put into foster care, and he himself is the prime suspect in his wife’s muder. After 15 years of being locked away, he is finally released onto a rooftop of a tall building. He quickly learns once on the outside that he is being tailed by his captor, and is given just five days to learn who his captor is, and his motives for incarcerating Oh Dae-su, leading to a tale of bloody vengeance.
From beginning to end, this film is absolutely brilliant. It contains amazing performances throughout, especially from Choi Min-sik, who plays Oh Dae-su. For me, his work in ‘Oldboy’ ranks as one of the greatest performances in any film, ever. The film is also masterfully directed by Park Chan-wook, combining stunning visuals with a knack to get great work our of his cast. This film is the second in what is now known as Park Chan-wook’s ‘Vengeance’ trilogy, which is not a trilogy in the story sense, but in the thematic sense, with all three films about vengeance.
‘Oldboy’ is definitely not for the faint-hearted, as it touches on some very taboo themes, and contains graphic violence. The great thing, though, is that the violence never feels tasteless or gratuitous. Although it can be sometimes very gory, it feels justified in the context of the story, considering what Oh Dae-su has had to go through. The film also contains perhaps the most beautifully executed and choreographed fight scenes of all time, shown here:
The taboo themes that the film explores will not be touched on here, as discussing them will ruin the plot for those who are yet to see ‘Oldboy’. I urge any and all film-lovers to seek this film out. Despite being less than 10 years old, it is already considered a classic, and when it was shown at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, it won the Grand Prix, the second highest award given at the festival behind the Palme d’Or, and was highly praised by the President of the Jury, Quentin Tarantino. Incidentally, the winner of the Palme d’Or that year was Michael Moore’s piece of shit “documentary”, ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’. There’s no justice in the world, sometimes.
Anyway, onto the remake. As anyone who has seen the film can attest to, this is not the kind of thing that Hollywood would usually touch, because the themes and subjects that are explored are beyond what the Americans are used to seeing in their high-budget studio pictures. Perhaps it could be released by an indie company with some relatively obscure or unknown actors in the lead roles, but remakes don’t usually go this route, choosing instead to go with big names and large marketing budgets.
This is why, in 2008, the director/actor combination that was being shopped around for the Hollywood remake was… Steven Spielberg and Will Smith. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Not to take away from Steven Spielberg or Will Smith, who have both done some great work in their time, but trust me, with a film like this, there’s no way the director of popcorn movies as ‘E.T.’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ or the star of ‘The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air’ could do ‘Oldboy’ any justice.
Thankfully, this idea was retired, and it looked like Hollywood had come to its senses, and this would be the end of any talk of an ‘Oldboy’ remake. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and it has now been confirmed that Spike Lee will be directing the remake, with Josh Brolin attached to star as the lead. Colin Firth was offered the role of the villain, but was smart enough to turn the offer down. Names like Christian Bale and Clive Owen are now rumoured for the villain instead. As for the lead female role, IMDb is reporting that Mia Wasikowska (Alice from Tim Burton’s recent adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’) is being considered for the role.
Dear Reader, this remake has “DISASTER” written all over it. There’s a reason that ‘Oldboy’ currently sits at number 93 on the IMDb Top 250, and has enjoyed a high position since it’s release. It is one of the greatest films ever made and deserves to be left alone. So when the remake is finally released, I beg of you, ignore it. Send a message that we are sick and tired of these pointless remakes that are practically guaranteed to be terrible, and let Hollywood know that we’re smart enough to watch and enjoy foreign films, and don’t need to be spoon-fed a dumbed-down version of the same product. Anyone who’s seen the remake of ‘Dark Water’ from 2005 knows, Hollywood is very good at taking a great foreign film and turning it into a steaming pile of shit.
I will leave you know with the trailer for ‘Oldboy’, and once again, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
5 out of 5 stars.