dir Spike Lee
scr Mark Protosevich
prd Doug Davison, Roy Lee, Spike Lee
with Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Pom Klementieff, James Ransone, Max Casella Linda Emond, Elvis Nolasco, Rami Malek, Lance Reddick
release US 27.Nov.13, UK 6.Dec.13
13/US Universal 1h44
Looking for clues: Brolin and Olsen

copley jackson imperioli
See also:
oldboy (2003)
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Oldboy In remaking Park Chan-wook's iconic 2003 thriller, Spike Lee has surgically removed the black humour and warped underlying pathos that made the twisty plot so involving. It's the same riveting, surprising story, but the substance is completely missing.

After throwing away his job, Joe (Brolin) goes on a bender, waking up in an anonymous hotel room that's actually a cell he'll be held in for the next 20 years. His need for vengeance is stoked through TV shows about his wife's murder and his daughter's adoption. So when he's inexplicably released, his pal Chucky (Imperioli) and a kindly nurse Marie (Olsen) help him find his swaggering jailer (Jackson), which leads to the man (Copley) who paid the bill. But if he wants to see his daughter, Joe must figure out why this happened.

The idea is clever enough to hold our interest, and viewers unfamiliar with the original film (which was based on a manga) may not notice that it's only about half as ironic as it should be. Or that every emotional note is depicted in a way that's painfully obvious. Even the meaning of the title is lost in translation as Lee indulges in some genuinely unsettling violence (very clever) including some bravura fight-scenes (very choreographed).

Despite the unsubtle emotions, Brolin holds the centre with a darkly intense turn as a man who finally emerges from his self-destructive ways only to focus his violent urges on someone else instead. As he falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, Joe hopes he'll get to the point, solve the problem and get out unscathed. But of course life is a lot messier than this, and the plot takes some truly grim twists and turns along the way.

Olsen is solid as the young woman who throws her lot in with him, perhaps a bit to enthusiastically. And Jackson and Copley play their roles with an endless supply of personal tics, as if they're in a nutty sci-fi epic. Some of these details are entertaining to catch, as are constant references to the original film (yes, there's an octopus). So it's a shame this remake is merely technically proficient when it so badly needs a sense of deranged artistry.

cert 18 themes, language, strong violence, sexuality 27.Nov.13

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