It’s been said that Spike Lee is a better director of work that isn’t his own. Films like “25th Hour” or “Inside Man” come to mind in giving that statement validity. You can add “Oldboy” to that list as well!
“Oldboy” is Spike’s latest film and a remake of Chan Wook Park's cult classic film of the same name. The film follows Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), a self-centered alcoholic whose career and family is taking a toll from it. We find him in the year 1983, on a day when he ditches his daughter’s birthday to destroy a deal he almost sealed by hitting on his prospective client’s wife while the husband is in the restroom (Joe’s that type of guy). He then goes on a bender in which he passes out and finds himself in captivity.
For twenty years Joe is held in captivity. Not knowing why he is there, he does know that he receives three squares and a bottle of vodka with each meal. As time moves forward, Joe is introduced to a TV show in which he finds out that his wife was murdered and his daughter adopted. This fills him with a desire to get out of captivity, seek revenge on his captor, and reunite with his daughter.
When Joe is released into the world he sets out on his mission, not knowing that it is a part of an orchestrated scheme by his captor. As Joe teams up with the kind-hearted Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olson) and high school buddy Chucky (Michael Imperioli) to seek revenge, things get more twisted as answers are revealed. Samuel L. Jackson plays his usual funny but original character. While Sharlto Copley plays an unforgettable villain as Adrian.
Some may compare this remake to it’s predecessor, and it’s hard not to. This film is inferior to the original, but Spike does a great job of paying homage while taking it in another direction. His camera work is spellbinding and the suspense is just as intense. The film is proof that Spike Lee is a great director, but it may get lost due to its non-traditional storyline and comparisons to the original.