IHAO on ... Oldboy (2013)

I spent a long time talking about genre the other day, specifically about science fiction.  But last evening I actually had a wonderful time dealing with another genre: the Thriller.

Now that THAT is out of the way, lemme tell ya about the thriller.  A thriller is a film that is very deeply a character or story film, focused on building tension higher and higher, sometimes to release that tension, sometimes to just bring it to a boil and let it absolutely boil over all over you, the audience.  It is a genre that I more and more am finding myself making a distinction for.  A lot of people end up shackling a lot of these films with "horror" because they cannot think of a better place for it.

My roommate loves the genre.  I do too, actually.  But for him, it is the be-all end-all.  It has almost every single film he loves in it, with the exceptions being slapstick comedies and nanar films, though he'll never use that term.  So we spent the evening watching two thrillers, one he and his girlfriend rented, and one that I own and love.  They rented Oldboy, starring Josh Brolin and directed by Spike Lee.  And boy-howdy ... ok, some backstory to this movie.

Oldboy was a very big deal Korean film made in 2003.  It is the second film in a trilogy about Vengeance.  And it made a huge splash over here.  It is one of those first films that triggered the wave of asian cinema that came over.  Now, ten years later, an American remake was created.

Now, why would a big deal foreign film be remade?  Well, because a whole bunch of very famous people wanted to do it.  Justin Lin of the Fast and Furious franchise, Will Smith, even Spielberg all wanted to get a shot at adapting this famous film.  All because it wasn't in English, so it was fair game.  Also, Oldboy is in and of itself an adaption of a manga series with the same name.  Then, when this all got big news, because Spielberg and Smith will of course do that, that cause a huge lawsuit between manga company and Korean film company.  It became poison to careers, and people moved on.

Then, out of nowhere, boom, Spike Lee is doing a remake of the film specifically.  And they filmed it and made it and wooooo it exists!  Well, kind of.  You see, the "Spike Lee Joint" version was heavily edited, removing 35 minutes out of the product.  Perspective, that is about an episode and a half of How I Met Your Mother.  Oh, and since the production team deleted 35 minutes of it, Spike Lee refused to put his above mentioned "joint" term of endearment on it, and Josh Brolin also has gone on record for disliking that they would chop out so much of the film.

I know this is kind of sarcastic sounding, but I really do feel bad for Spike Lee.  I hope his full cut comes out soon.

So yeah!  But what does that mean for the film itself?

Ok, quick plot: Joe (Josh Brolin) is a drunk, and a terrible father in 1993.  He is then kidnapped, framed for the rape and murder of his wife, and left in his strange solo existence for 20 years, before being released, only to learn his daughter will be killed in 84 hours.  He is now on the hunt and is looking for revenge.  There are a LOT of twists and turns beyond that, but that's what you need to know.

Josh Brolin is excellent.  Just absolutely excellent in this.  He holds the whole thing together and is amazing.  No one really is up to snuff with his talent, making scenes where he is interacting with others a little uneven, but watching it for Brolin is really really great.  And consider how large of a section there is of just Brolin and the audience, you can take my word for how good he does.

Now, on to Spike Lee.  You see, with all adaptations, you add something to the source.  And the added thing to the source material was a focus on technology.  From flippant lines about "believing everything you see on TV" to showing how information is now accessible through ALL THOSE GREAT APPLE PRODUCTS, YOU GUYS!!!, this movie updates the whole thing with technology.  And ... it kind of makes it all sillier.  Like, the original (which is great, by the way) is very simple.  Yes, there is a lot of crazy stuff going on and twists and turns, which the remake keeps true to, but it kept things simple.  But the scope is exploded in the remake, to make everything bigger.  But whenever it gets bigger, you just get more questions.  It actually hurts the film.

"To be or not to be, that is the question.  Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outRAGEOUS sillyness!"

Now, the actual cinematography is great, though not mindblowing, and the film is sufficiently different in its telling to make it worthwhile, beyond the great acting and seeing Scarlet Witch's boobies.  The score is whatever, and the script is fine, though the actual mechanics of the plot get wonky.  And man, some of the actors are just ... silly.  Too silly.  OH and there is some violence.  Like, super duper brutal violence.  But only some.

Overall, it is a really solid thriller, and I'd recommend it.  I always REALLY want to see Spike Lee's originally cut, and I hope it will become avaliable.  But for now, it isn't quite up to GREAT, but still super good.

Grade: B+

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