Before I talk about the quality of the movie, I need to tell you something hilarious about the Oldboy remake.
If you’ve seen the Korean original (if you’re reading this, I’m sure you have) you’ll know that the entire film hinges towards that one sex scene. The shock value that the scene exudes during the final reveal was one of the primary things that made Park Chan Wook’s 2003 movie so famous. The film releases in India without the sex scene because it was axed by the censor board. There are no blurs, no edits, just a big old chop – it’s completely removed and the sex is not even implied. It’s amusing, and sad. And it’s not surprising, given the regressive attitude of our censor board. And it’s a shame that the distributors didn’t submit the film to the revision committee, because if they had the scene would’ve most probably remained intact.
That said, Spike Lee’s Oldboy is yet another gratingly unnecessary, clumsily realized Hollywood remake of a foreign classic. The film pretty much takes a giant dump on everything that we loved about the original film. There was a lot of fuss made about how this version was going to be closer to the Manga than the Korean film, but sadly that was all a big fib. The writing is credited to Mark Protosevich but the film doesn’t even try to do anything new with the material. Even some of the shots are exactly the same and you’re left wondering why Spike Lee is channeling his inner Sanjay Gupta. The film is in fact much closer to Zinda than it is to Oldboy. The former had excised the big twist to suit the faint hearted desi audiences, the latter trims down a couple of plot points to dumb it down extensively. As a result the remake is a hot mess that is neither for those who loved Park Chan Wook’s movie, nor for those unfamiliar with it.
Everything about the film is half-assed, from the writing to the direction to the acting by Josh Brolin. The one take hammer fight is reduced to a cringe inducing terribly choreographed schlokfest that makes the one in Zinda look better in comparison. Before being imprisoned Brolin’s character is supposed to be pudgy, but Brolin is clearly very muscular and he makes a hilariously bad attempt to hide his abs by jutting out his stomach to make it look like a paunch. Elizabeth Olsen’s character in the original hung out with the hero because someone else was controlling her actions. In the remake, the girl simply hangs out with a random stranger because she feels compelled to. The villain in the original was a classy badass with a terrifying motive to torture the hero, in the remake he’s given a scar on his torso to compensate for his cheesy standard issue back story. The whole thing really feels like an Asylum remake of Oldboy with an aftertaste of the live octopus that Oh Dae Su swallows in the original.
(First published in MiD Day)