Watch 2003's Oldboy again. It's better.
Spike Lee was always treading on glass with cheap shoes when he decided to take on the Oldboy project. The original, 2003 film was a cult classic; adored by international audiences and famed for its unerring approach to violence and a twisted plot.
Josh Brolin and Samuel L. Jackson in Oldboy, the remake
It would be fair to say that Lee had a pretty solid canvas on which to build, but would appear – according to the critics at least – that he missed the opportunity to provide a good western remake of a brilliant foreign movie.
If this had not been a remake, it would possibly be the worst film of the year – at least that’s what the early reviews seem to suggest. Luckily, it is, and it gets by on the grace bestowed upon it by Chan-wook Park’s brilliant original.
“The remake that came too late, so benign and unmemorable that not even people who loved Park Chan-wook's 2003 original will be able to muster much outrage,” said Stephanie Zacharek of Village Voice.
Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com was equally disparaging: “I would divide the potential audience for "Oldboy" into two groups: Those who will be disappointed and those who will be bewildered.”
Sharlto Copley also scars - sorry, stars - in Oldboy
And The New York Times’ A.O Scott had this to say on the remake, starring Josh Brolin: “If you have seen the earlier version, you can occupy yourself with point-by-point comparisons. If not, you may find yourself swerving between bafflement and mild astonishment...”
The hype was almost palpable surrounding Lee’s remake of the hyper-violent, South Korean mystery thriller. But with an accumulated score of 45% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s clear the expectation was too much.
And, as we’ve seen with similarly poorly reviewed titles this year – The Counselor, Lone Ranger, etc. – the box office inevitably suffers. So we’re not predicting good things for Oldboy come December 6th when it’s released.