'Oldboy' Claws Back Respectability, But Critics Remain Unconvinced

Spike Lee's Oldboy - a visceral thriller based on Park Chan-wook's classic 2004 movie - will have to do solid box-office business to justify itself after a wave of middling reviews from critics.

Oldboy Josh brolinJosh Brolin in Spike Lee's 'Oldboy'

Lee's remake follows the story of Joe Doucette - played here by Josh Brolin - a man who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement for no apparent reason. When he is suddenly released without explanation, he begins an obsessive mission to find out who imprisoned him. The remake co-stars Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley, though despite the impressive cast, Oldboy appears to fall short of even the most basic of expectations.

"Oldboy is lively but numb - checked out, as if Lee were directing it following a period of intense convalescence," said Tom Shone of the Guardian.

"What's onscreen feels squeezed, truncated and curiously embalmed. It's got no kick to it... Oldboy just lies there like old news that's not worth a second thought," wrote Pete Travers of Rolling Stone.

"The violence ... is gruesome - oodles of CG blood and brain matter - but out of scale. It's shock for shock's sake. It doesn't track," said Vulture.

Oldboy Spike LeeJosh Brolin Teams Up With Spike Lee For the 'Oldboy' Remake

It looked horribly bleak from Lee and FilmDistrict earlier this week, though as the reviews begin to roll in, Oldboy's fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes appears to be creeping up (still only 47%).

"Lee's is more of a hard-edged, hammer-and-nail noir than Park's existential horror, and it's far less concerned with the internal state of Joe's mind than the external havoc it creates," said the Globe & Mail.

"If you've never seen the original, you're bound to be impressed. If you have seen the original, you're bound to be distracted by the way in which Spike Lee screwed this up," wrote CraveOnline.

"A few minor changes and another strong, rounded performance by Josh Brolin helps Spike Lee's remake overcome some of the problems inherent in revisiting known source material," said ComingSoon.net.

Watch an 'Oldboy' clip:

When asked by ScreenRant why he chose to remake a movie already considered one of the finest of the last decade, Lee said: "The film, the original film and also the original source, the Japanese illustrated novel and then the third thing was a chance to work with the great Josh Brolin." 

Oldboy is out in the U.S. on Friday (November 29, 2013)


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