Favorite

Oldboy 

A baroque thriller about an unexplained imprisonment suffers from an uneven tone

oldboy_48.jpg

After a boozy night out in 1993, Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) finds himself imprisoned in a privately run cell, with no explanation. Twenty years later, he is just as mysteriously released — and he sets about learning who locked him and why. Spike Lee directs this American remake of Park Chan-wook's 2003 Korean crime drama.

The original was a dark, pulpy shocker whose broodiness and memorable violence made it compelling, and helped override its baroque plot. But Lee eschews the seriousness that grounds some Asian crime thrillers in favor of stuff Americans like: scenery-chewing Samuel L. Jackson, jokey violence and a lot of backstory filled in with TV broadcasts.

Brolin is good, but in this retelling, his character reacts more to others' action than from his own urgency. There's a notable lack of tension, when Doucett's agency is undercut by his passiveness or by ridiculous alpha-male scenes that wouldn't be out of place in a martial-arts comedy. Newcomers to the story may find the mystery, with its twists and feints, a moderately entertaining thriller despite its ludicrous plot. Fans of the Korean film should just treasure their memories.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Al Hoff

  • Foxcatcher
  • Foxcatcher

    Bennett Miller's account of an ill-fated relationship between an Olympic wrestler and his wealthy benefactor is finely crafted, if chilly and bleak
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Wild
  • Wild

    Reese Witherspoon shoulders the task of bringing to life Cheryl Strayed's memoir about a very long walk
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Listings

Latest in Movie Reviews + Features

  • Foxcatcher
  • Foxcatcher

    Bennett Miller's account of an ill-fated relationship between an Olympic wrestler and his wealthy benefactor is finely crafted, if chilly and bleak
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Wild
  • Wild

    Reese Witherspoon shoulders the task of bringing to life Cheryl Strayed's memoir about a very long walk
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Annie
  • Annie

    The popular musical about the plucky orphan gets a more contemporary re-boot
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 Pittsburgh City Paper

Website powered by Foundation

National Advertising by VMG Advertising