Written by Asia Martin
Disturbing, gritty, and horrifically gory are not the exact ingredients one could see as the recipe for a typical Spike Lee Joint, but Oldboy shows a different side to Lee’s directing.
Oldboy follows Joe Ducett (Josh Brolin), a missing-in-action father, who finds himself in an isolation cell padded like a cheap motel room. Ducett spends 20 years in the cell unaware of his crime, eating the same meal everyday, in a state of what looks like psychosis. His captors, lead by Samuel L. Jackson’s character Chaney, free him in the middle of a field and he spends his freedom searching for them and the person they’re working for.
Oldboy is the urban American rendition of the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, a manga (Japanese comic) by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki MInegishi. The manga was made into a South Korean film, under the same title, that gained international acclaim and became a cult classic after it was released in 2003. Screenwriter Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend) wrote the present day remake.
The film is well-casted and well-written. The graphic images are the only aesthetics to the plot. Unless you followed the manga trilogy, the story is unpredictable from beginning to end. Lee and Protosevich leave audiences only seeing the story unfold from the ground level along with the protagonist and his associates. The only things that you could foresee was the comedic moments of Samuel L. Jackson’s stylish rants like an old-time sailor.
Brolin’s performance as a middle-aged pathetic man who literally lost touch with reality and then emerges as a kung fu thug should make him an automatic cast member of The Expendables 3 or the Hulk’s stand-in. Brolin fought off groups of men in such a charismatic and brutal style that added a break from the mystery and drama. His performance is a great imitation of Min-sik Choi’s 2003 portrayal.
The character who stands out the most is the villain, played by Sharlto Copley (The A-Team), who isn’t even heard from until later in the film as a shrilly man’s voice coming through a phone. Copley usually plays kooky characters so his version of the villain was funny and theatrical even though he was creepy and sadistic.
Because of its surreal story line and the way it ends, Oldboy is a mystery thriller that is like a cold shower compared to the movies out currently. The movie is entertaining; it has comedic moments and a great mystery on its hands. But if you favor Disney’s standard happy endings, you might want to sit this one out.