While most critics love Spike Lee I've never been a huge fan. Sure he's done some movies that I've thought were good but too often I found his films too filled with political correctness and outrage. That's fine when you start but after so many films it becomes less a statement of honesty and more one of trying to keep your following happy. The films I have enjoyed have been his more mainstream films. This week finds one of those released on DVD though mainstream might not quite be the word I'd use to describe it.
OLDBOY was a Korean made film that took audiences by surprise and by storm when it was originally released back in 2003. It was controversial and filled with extreme violence and yet it told a fascinating story. Lee has taken that original film and made it more palatable for U.S. audiences, those who still refuse to read subtitles.
Josh Brolin is Joe Doucett, an ad exec who's seen better days. Now Joe he weighs too much, drinks too much, flirts too much and tends to forget about the family he once had. After losing an important client he goes on a binge only to wake and find himself locked in a strange room with no way out. The sparse room has a bed, nightstand, huge TV screen, a false window and a bathroom. Cries for help or to know what's going on go unanswered.
By watching the TV, Joe also learns that his wife has been raped and murdered and that his daughter has been taken in child protective services. He also finds out that the police think he's the one who did this with DNA evidence to back it up. He is supplied with plenty to eat (if he'll eat Chinese food) and an endless supply of whiskey which he takes to rapidly. The only programs on his TV screen are news, exercise programs, kung fu movies and updates on the life of his daughter now being raised by an adoptive couple.
Time moves forward and first Joe feels helpless and then tries to take his own life. But the forces that be won't allow that, knocking him out with gas and then bandaging him up. Knowing that he'll survive no matter what he does, he decides to make the best of things. He stops drinking and begins to work out since most of the TV programming is exercise shows and kung fu movies. As the years go by, Joe begins to work on a way to escape, finding some lose tiles in the shower. But before he can use this escape, he is knocked out once again.
When Joe wakes, he finds himself in a steamer trunk in the middle of a field with a cell phone and plenty of money. It is now 20 years later and he still has no clue who did this to him or why. But he sees a woman carrying an umbrella with a symbol he recognizes as one he tattooed onto his own arm. Following her he ends up in an altercation with a group of weekend sports players that he takes out easily using the things he's learned watching the TV. He loses the girl but does find an old friend named Chucky (Michael Imperoli). With his help Joe learns how to use a computer as well as the internet.
As Joe continues to search for whoever is behind this he meets a young woman who helps with the less fortunate in the neighborhood named Marie (Elizabeth Olson). Along with his friend Chucky, they continue to try and find answers to help him. Various clues are left for Joe to help him move this direction or that and eventually he is brought face to face with the person responsible. And he still has no idea who this is or why any of this has taken place.
That might seem like a lot of information but trust me when I say that things go forward from here that make all of it not only clear as to what was going on but why. Through it Joe faces off against enormous odds in a fight sequence that isn't exactly what the original presented but close enough that fans should be pleased. Lee has also decided to keep the ending somewhat intact, something that will shock many, disgust a few and surprise only those with no contact with the original film.
This move is so well paced, so well put together that there isn't a moment when you'll consider touching the remote to fast forward. You'll want to absorb not only every ounce of information in the hopes of putting the story together but you won't want to miss any of the fine quality acting on display from every single person involved. Why Brolin isn't doing more in movies is beyond me and Olsen shows that in that family she was the one gifted with acting ability.
OLDBOY is not for the weak of heart. It offers a gritty world where bad things happen to bad people and where justice takes on the oddest form. If the end of this movie doesn't make your draw drop then you weren't paying attention. As for Spike Lee I wish he'd direct more straight forward movies like this one. He has the ability to do it right, if he'd only stick to it. Lastly I would suggest that if you're interested in something different you might want to watch the original film as well. It's well worth the time.
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