This is director Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-Wook’s South Korean film ‘Old Boy’. Given the original only came out in 2003, and if you are into film then you have almost certainly heard of it and probably at least thought about trying to watch it at some point, the question has to be asked, why remake it now? Especially since it’s a mystery, one who’s story has not been changed very much here, so if you know the outcome there is precious little reason to watch this version, and given that it’s a pretty flimsy attempt at a remake there is then no reason whatsoever to do so. So it seems this was either made for people who don’t like to watch films with subtitles, or was simply the inflection of Lee’s own ego – although to be fair, reportedly the producers did somewhat take the project away from Lee when it came to the final cut, much to the chagrin of director and leading man Josh Brolin alike.
The story revolves around Joe Doucett (Brolin) who is, for reasons unknown, locked up in a room for twenty years and then one random day released, and is then left to find out what on Earth happened to him and why. One of the first problems is that Joe does not look a day older when this two decade period elapses – initially we are shown his overweight gut and then a montage of him working out whilst interred, suggesting a level of commitment from Brolin, but still hardly accounting for the physical changes twenty years would bring. The all important story elements around the time of his release are simply delivered in a very weak way – in fact, judging by the random fight he gets into with some jocks immediately upon release, for no real reason, and his ability to contort their limbs at will, it seems twenty years of constant body building is enough to also grant one super powers to boot.
Elizabeth Olson turns up in what for her is not the first bad and unnecessary remake she’s appeared in (see 2011’s ‘Silent House’), Samuel L. Jackson has a brief role, and Sharlto Copley has another good turn after his memorable performance in ‘Elysium’. One of the biggest set pieces and most iconic scenes from the original is recreated – and from the point of view of the crew it’s a difficult scene all filmed in one continuous shot over multiple levels of the same building. Unfortunately, it looks completely ridiculous with stunt men throwing themselves all over the place willy-nilly, looking more like the WWE Royal Rumble on a bad year than a well rehearsed big budget action scene. That kind of sums up the whole thing – I did begin to get into the story again toward the final third, but overall it just feels like an ill conceived attempt to steal someone else’s thunder – the production team should really have just orchestrated the wider rerelease of the original if they were so taken with it. DEFINITELY watch the South Korean version, not this.