We’ve finally got a solid look at Spike Lee’s Americanized remake of Chan-wook Park’s brilliant Oldboy, and the only thing we can say for sure is that it certainly is a remake of Oldboy.
Oldboy, the original, is one of the finest films released over the past few decades. It’s a Korean thriller that seamlessly blends Shakespearean tragedy, Oedipal horror, slick modern production values, and brutal fight choreography into a film that affects viewers in ways they won’t forget for days after watching the flick.
Don’t believe me? You can stream it on Netflix right this very minute. See for yourself.
When it was announced that Spike Lee (a director known as well for films like Do The Right Thing and Inside Man as he is for his incendiary racial politics) would be remaking Oldboy for American audiences the reaction was swift and immediate. “There’s no way this can turn out well,” the Internet masses cried. “Oldboy is too great, and Spike Lee could never hope to ape Chan-wook Park’s masterful storytelling.”
Yet here we have the first trailer for the film. A red band trailer, at that. And what do we see? A film that, while American, looks a whole lot like the classic Oldboy we know and love. Actually, it looks almost too similar to its inspiration. None of that films especially dark moments are reenacted in this trailer, but we do get a brief glimpse at Lee’s attempt to replicate the iconic hammer fight scene. It doesn’t look bad per se, but from what we see in the trailer there’s very little sense of claustrophobia in the fight, which may serve traditional action film shooting techniques, but removes a crucial element of what made that scene so tense in the first place.
Plus, as much as we like Josh Brolin as an actor, he doesn’t quite pull off that “bedraggled, insane, emotionally traumatized” look required of Oldboy’s protagonist quite as well as Min-sik Choi, lead actor in the original. Brolin does add an element of sex appeal to the role that Choi lacks, but that’s completely unnecessary for this particular acting gig, and could arguably serve to distract audiences from the important, dark themes of the film.
We won’t judge Lee’s take on Oldboy until we’ve seen the thing, but if this trailer is any indicator, the translation from Korean to American didn’t do much to affect the film’s broad strokes, but it may have removed all of the teeth that made the original Oldboy such a bloody fan favorite.