Oldboy (2013) (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus let's Spike Lee's Oldboy out a bit early, just to get it over and done with.
Joe Doucett (John Brolin) is a bastard. He drinks too much, he’s arrogant and he doesn't care about his family. During his latest drunken night out, Joe is kidnapped and held captive in a room for 20 years. Upon his unexpected release Joe embarks on a mission to find the person responsible and demand an explanation for his punishment and to apologise to his daughter for his past deeds.
Yup, they’ve gone an made an English speaking Oldboy and however much that feels like a pointless idea, we now live in cinematic world where remakes, reboots, reimaginings and re-whatevers are the norm so I guess this remake, of the original brutal classic was a no-brainer when it came to a built in audience of fans and those guy and gals that wanted to see the original but don't like watching films they have to read.
The immediate knee jerk reaction to these things is that Hollywood will no doubt water down the brutal nature of the original. That’s not really the case with this one, well not entirely anyway. Yeah it doesn't feel as gritty as the original but the gnarly bits are still pretty gnarly. The torture scene where Joe takes chunks out of Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s neck, where he intends to keep going until he can pull his head off, leaves little to the imagination and works wonders. Same goes for the majority of the fight scenes and film’s infamous final reveal.
What is dialed down however is the weirdness. Sure, there’s still a fair share of odd moments but this one all stays quite level headed and its sense of odd, falls more into a sense of chuckles which doesn't always sit right in a scene. It generates a fairly loose approach to all the events and somehow it takes the impact off of some of the key reveals. I guess it could be that I knew the beats from the original already, so the shock value has gone but none of the characters seem to be all that effected by the messed up events in the film and it made it hard to take in the darkness of the goings on.
Brolin has most of the film to himself and the cast he does interact with don’t really share much of the focus. Elizabeth Olson is good but never really has the space to be great, Samuel L Jackson is obviously having a blast and makes the most of his character (though he feels like he's stepped out of D.O.A Dead or Alive) and Sharlto Copley, while certainly memorable with his performance, it's not for all the right reasons as his performance sticks out like a sore thumb.
Sadly the central role doesn't do a lot to keep this thing buoyant. Josh Brolin is almost playing this too melodramatically for my tastes. His physical performance is pretty good and there’s a real sense of his weight as he lumbers about but he's always struck me as a little too bewildered or too crazy, or sad, or angry, or whatever is called for to show his anguish. It never felt all that real to me and seemed to be trying to capture the original film without letting new character Joe Doucett ever become his own thing.
The biggest let down about all of this however is the fact Spike Lee directed it. This film is pretty faceless and feels like anyone could have directed it. There’s nothing all that special about it or a sense that Spike Lee has brought anything to the project other than his name. Everything just feels like a poorly replicated version of the original film. Even the infamous hammer fight seems lackluster. In fact it almost feels silly in places. You can just feel the choreography in every stroke, the planned beats and the waves of screaming hoodlums with plantks of wood doesn't feel natural. In fact it doesn't feel unlike this 'Oldboy' is being attacked by Wesley Snipe's gang in the Michael Jackson Bad music video or something, which might explain why this felt a bit silly.
There’s a obviously purpose built level of grain for the film’s style but on this standard definition release it just makes the film look ugly. Elements being soft doesn't help any and while colours all seem good, this is another example of DVD as a format being woefully under loved by its studio.
The image just looks so grubby and it makes the equally gritty and prettily lit film look about ten years older than it actually is. When the murkier lighting creeps in as the film's tone slips underground, black levels are closer to off greens and blues and the quality slips down another notch or two. Orange skin tones begin to look too boosted for their surroundings and real detail is minimal with the image appearing rather flat at times. Also it’s not always easy to read the texts Joe receives when flashed quickly as the phone image is just not sharp enough. This is a poor DVD that holds an image that you know probably shines in HD. The quality is all in there in the film's production (if you like the style of the film that is) but this DVD does very little to celebrate it.
The Dolby Digital track is all round good but never gives anything spectacular. Dialogue sits well in the centre, the score hovers strongly around it and the rears back everything up as expected. The odd sound effect, such as a bang of a door or a smash of glass sounds crisp and the underlying bass in some of the musical elements drive the film forward even when it’s at its most similar to the original. All told this a level, well constructed audio presentation that ticks along without issue but doesn’t do much to draw attention to itself even when it’s trying to show off.
The extra features menu is here emptier than Joe's mice box.
Its been a while since I've seen the original Oldboy and it was probably a good thing as the precise similarities and differences were not at the forefront of my mind throughout. The best thing I can say about Oldboy 2013 is I didn’t hate it and while it doesn't touch the original’s awesomeness, it gave the required punch to the gut when the big twist comes around, even if it just made me wince rather than knock the wind out of me.
The tone here just feels a bit off throughout and nobody feels all that committed to making this more than just another forgettable remake sadly. The DVD looks pretty poor, sounds good and comes with no extras, so I guess a rental is the best idea for this one or just sticking to the original and saving yourself some time might be a better idea.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 7th April 2014
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson
Genre: Crime, Drama and Thriller
Length: 99 minutes
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