"Revenge is good for your health, but pain will find you again."
Park Chan-Wook's "Oldboy" is one of the seminal films of this young decade, a giddily warped and ecstatically directed noir that resolves as one of the cinema's great new revenge sagas. Bridging the gap between the art house cognoscenti and genre enthusiasts, the film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival (from a jury presided over by Quentin Tarantino, natch) and now sits at #84 on IMDB's dubious but telling list of the greatest movies ever made. Anchored by Choi Min-sik's astonishing lead performance as Oh Dae-su, a man who is inexplicably imprisoned in a windowless room for 15 years and then suddenly freed to learn the reason why, "Oldboy" sparked a Korean New Wave that was already on the brink of catching fire. Indeed, we're still seeing the fallout from this morally confounding masterpiece, as 2013 has seen Park and his contemporaries at the helm of major English-language films – Park directed "Stoker," Bong Joon-ho has "Snowpiercer," and Kim Jee-woon was trusted to handle Arnold's comeback in "The Last Stand."
Having said all that, it's still hard to wrap my head around the fact that Spike Lee's "Oldboy" is a real thing that exists. Here's the red-band trailer, courtesy of Yahoo!
When I sat with Park Chan-Wook in his Seoul office a few years ago (long story), Tarantino himself was rumored to be interesting in re-imagining "Oldboy" for the Western world, and Park couldn't have been less excited about the idea. He professed his reverence for Tarantino, but had no interest in seeing anyone riff on his most beloved film. It's unclear whether he's come around to the idea in the time since, but I suspect it's as surreal for him as it is for me to see the first footage from Spike Lee's version, which seems to cleave incredibly close to the original movie – the circumstances of Oh Dae-su's (now Josh Brolin) capture seem identical, but it's the set design that's most revealing, as fans of Park's film will notice that all of the major locations are intact and eerily familiar. Samuel L. Jackson has definitely been cast in the perfect part, but – at least upon first blush – this seems like more of a cover than it does a reinvention.
The most pressing questions for die-hard fans will be technical ones: Did Spike Lee shoot the hallway sequence in one long shot? Did he do anything to address the film's somewhat muddled coda? Was the villain's ultimate revelation tweaked for American audiences? For me, it's the little things that have me so cautiously excited for October, to see what happened when one master filmmaker with a very particular POV did with the material originally generated by another. I can see the think pieces already.
"OLDBOY is a provocative, visceral thriller that follows the story of an advertising executive (Josh Brolin) who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.
Co-starring Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley, OLDBOY was directed by Spike Lee, from a script by Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, The Cell, Thor). The film was produced by Roy Lee, Doug Davison and Nathan Kahane.
In theatres October 25, 2013."