Director Spike Lee’s “Oldboy” is a dramatic revenge saga of a man who is abducted and held captive for 20 years. It is a remake of the 2003 South Korean film of the same name, directed by Park Chan Wook.
The film starts off in an obscure Chinatown area in America. The unsteady camera before zeroing in on Joseph Ducet (Josh Brolin) an unimpressive advertising executive, pans to a placard that states, ‘Guns don’t kill, people do‘. This lays the foundation of the mystery thriller.
The first few scenes establish Ducet as an absent and uncaring father and husband, a loser of an employee with bad business tactics and an alcoholic to the core.
On the eve of his daughter’s third birthday, drunk Ducet is unsuspectingly kidnapped by a mystery woman with a yellow umbrella and confined to a soulless room with just a television set for company. While in captivity, he realises that he has been framed for the murder of his wife.
He is soon physically and mentally devastated. And just when he hits rock bottom, through a television programme, he learns that his daughter is taken good care of by some adoptive parents.
So, he decides to write letters to his daughter to share his perspective. He also decides to become a better person. He works out physically and plots an escape. But before he can execute his plans, he is once again mysteriously released without any rhyme or reason.
Naturally obsessed with seeking revenge, he embarks on his mission with Chucky (Michael Imperioli) an old friend and Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) a social worker with the Holy Sisters Mobile Hospital, trying to figure out who is the person behind his ordeal and why he had to endure such treatment for such a long period.
As he investigates the dark underworld, he soon discovers that that’s exactly what his aggressor wants him to explore. And that is what keeps you hooked to the very end.
Josh Brolin as Ducet is pretty much convincing on the emotional front but regarding his physicality, his ageing process and vigour is sometimes questionable.
His pain, tribulations and anguish in overcoming his problems is systematically mechanical.
Elizabeth Olsen as the charming and lovable social worker is pleasant, you feel for her. The villains, Sharlto Copley and Samuel Jackson, give an eccentric but effective performance.
Visually, the film, stylishly shot by cinematographer Sean Bobby, is intriguing. He has effectively used blue and red lights to create an enigmatic aura. What gives an edge to the viewing experience are the excellently executed top angle shots.
Also noteworthy are the effective flashback scenes at the climax. Director Spike Lee has taken pains to make the climax more intensely melodramatic and satisfying.
While the set up and climax of the film are engaging and crisp, there are parts scattered in-between that are sloppily and haphazardly packaged. This gives the film tinges of cartoonish undertones.
Overall, “Oldboy” with a distinct unconventionality and bizarre nature, is a well attired but cold and emotionally reserved film.
Worth a watch if you have not seen the original.
By Troy Ribeiro (Rating:
Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Max Casella, Rami Malek
Director: Spike Lee