Oldboy (2013): Ask Why You Were Set Free

Posted: July 8, 2014 in Action, Drama, Mystery
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oldboy_ver2Trying to land a new contract for his agency, advertising professional Joe Doucett fails to land the contract after taking his interest in his associate’s partner too far. After getting drunk and wandering the streets, he collapses and vanishes. Waking up in a small room, he discovers that he is in some sort of solitary confinement with no sense of why or how he ended up there. Whoever has imprisioned him has gone to great lengths to keep him alive but also under control. The television begins to broadcast news reports about his involvement in the murder of his wife and his subsequent disappearance. Obsessed with trying to survive for his daughter, he eventually finds a way to escape and goes on a tear to find Mia and enact his revenge. Armed with his list and a new friend, he begins to hunt the people who imprisoned him, only to discover that his imprisonment and release was much more complicated than he could have guessed.

Starring: Josh Brolin (Joe Doucett), Elizabeth Olsen (Marie Sebastian), Sharlto Copley (Adrian/The Stranger), Samuel L. Jackson (Chaney), Michael Imperioli (Chucky), Pom Klementieff (Haeng-Bok), James Ransone (Dr. Tom Mebly), Max Casella (James Prestley), Linda Emond (Edwina Burke), Elvis Nolasco (Cortez)

Starting off as a rather brash and unlikable character, Brolin brought a certain misguided natural to his role. While his character seemed to find a way to go on a methodical rampage, he seemed to be able to find his order through the confinement over the 20 years. Olsen appeared to be a very kind and caring individual, though easily misguided and unclear with the conclusion of the film. Copley was quite the villain, with just the right amount of obsession to make his plan an intriguing story. Jackson portrayed his trademark brutish and over-the-top nature.

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Adapted from the original 2003 South Korean film, Spike Lee’s version pitted a hapless advertising agent against a vengeful conspirator set on completing an eye-for-a-eye mission in as painful a way as possible. Joe’s abduction was one that seemed to have no sense or purpose, other than to destroy his life. Spending 20 years locked away, he believed that he discovered a way to escape but seemed to not realize that his getaway was part of a grander plan set forth by Adrian. Having suffered an experience of incest and witnessing the murder/suicide of the rest of his family for a rumor spread by Joe during college, Adrian was able to manipulate Joe into a path that would allow him to experience nearly the same fate that he had befallen.

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The film is one that maintained a dark and dangerous tone throughout while also including a lot of violence and gore. Once released from his imprisonment, the film depicted the rampage of Joe with the use of a hammer and a knife to Chaney’s neck. The aggression in Joe’s demeanor was clear, as was the transformation once he discovered the truth behind his imprisonment and subsequent release. Adrian’s story was tragic and brought a certain sense of compassion for his situation, even though it was not revealed until near the end of the story. While these events were intriguing, the character development was so minimal and rushed that it felt like there was something significant missing. Joe just seemed like an alcoholic who mysteriously was able to kick it and become fit in a montage and Chaney felt like his involvement in the plan was weakly supported by the plot.

Oldboy is a movie that seemed to mirror a lot of the elements of the original but lacked the depth and connectedness needed to be a stronger adaptation.

Dan’s Rating: 2.0/5

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