Oldboy (2013) Blu-ray Review

Joe Doucett wakes up naked and hung over in a motel room, thinking he just spent a night of wild sex with a stranger. He hears the shower running but finds no one in there. When he draws the shades to let some light in the room, he finds only a painting. The door is bolted shut.

Josh Brolin in Oldboy

Periodically, someone delivers Chinese food through a small slot. When necessary, a gas is leaked into the room to knock Joe (Josh Brolin, TRUE GRIT) out so he can be tested. The only amenity is a television set. It’s on the TV that Joe discovers his wife has been raped and murdered, and that he’s the prime suspect. Days and weeks and months and years go by. All the while, he’s left wondering, Who did this to me?

Josh Brolin in Oldboy

And so begins his training and plot for revenge. Out in the free world and the sunshine, Joe meets a nurse named Marie Sebastian (Elisabeth Olsen, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE), who offers her help and support. It’s also where he encounters the man responsible, Adrian Pryce (Sharlto Copley, THE A-TEAM), and his henchman, Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson, appearing in his first Spike Lee picture since 1991’s JUNGLE FEVER).

Any time a remake is announced, diehard fans of the original will claim it’s a bastardization even before the trailer hits. Those that love Park Chan-wook’s OLDBOY (2003)—which itself was adapted from the manga of the same name—so much will likely gripe at some of the differences. But it doesn’t matter that it takes Joe a bit longer to wind up in the prison or that he spends 20 years and not 15 in imprisonment. What does matter is that, unlike the original, the remake lacks any balls.

Josh Brolin in Oldboy

Spike Lee has made some daring films in his career, but OLDBOY certainly isn’t one of them. In fact, despite the amount of blood, it’s extremely safe. This may partly have to do with the point that there are no controversial matters here (well, except the one…), but it’s primarily because it’s all been done before. (Judging a remake’s merits based on its similarities/differences to the original would normally be pretty unfair, but since Lee apparently has little interest in bringing his own vision to the project, then it seems reasonable here.)

Spike Lee hasn’t made an important narrative film since 2002’s 25TH HOUR. Following that (and 2004’s documentary WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS), Lee made a series of duds, like SHE HATE ME, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA and KOBE DOIN’ WORK. With OLDBOY, Lee is trying to get himself back in favor by relying on someone else’s expert work.

Josh Brolin in Oldboy

OLDBOY is a lazy effort from a filmmaker who used to at least try to be ambitious. It feels less like a Spike Lee joint than a movie Spike Lee decided to direct. Lee will no doubt make another (and hopefully more) great films, but he has more to prove now than he did in the mid-‘80s.

OLDBOY (2013) BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer of OLDBOY offers fine details throughout in skin features, clothing and locations, in addition to presenting deep blacks in the more darkly lit scenes.

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. The movie also sounds very good, especially in the more action-oriented scenes when SFX and Roque Baños’ score come heavily into play.

The Making of OLDBOY (16:52) is a standard promotional piece, with clips, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews (with Spike Lee, Josh Brolin and more).

Talking Heads (2:40): Lee, Brolin and more briefly touch on the story and some of the themes of the movie.

Transformation (2:11) looks at what Brolin brought to the “physically demanded role.”

Workout Video (0:49) intercuts the aerobics video and various clips of the movie.

Extended & Alternate Scenes (11:46): There are four here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “The Tape – Alternate,” “Ramp Fight – Extended,” “Adrian Watches from the Penthouse – Extended,” and “Haeng-Bok in Bed – Extended.”

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