by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
Life, in itself, is often bizarre. Sometimes things happen which we really don’t quite understand, whether for the good or for the bad. Other times it is more of bearing witness to an event and formulating an understanding later on. Sometimes these events are stories we read or see, as is the case with Spike Lee’s latest film, Old Boy. A remake of the Korean film by the same name, the film follows an unlikely scenario and takes us on a psychological journey through what a human can really withstand mentally, leaving us with more questions than answers and questioning what we really just saw.
Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is a businessman and not someone you would want to take home to Mom. After angering the wrong person, Joe is abducted one evening, waking up in a room. The room has a “window” with a prefabricated setting in it, and one door to exit, that does not have a doorknob. He is given food through a slot in the door to eat and never sees anyone. He has a television in the room and learns he has been framed for the murder of his wife and a manhunt has been initiated. And in this way, knowing of the death of his wife and not having any human contact, he is locked away for 20 years.
One morning he awakes outside and is to live his life. Having changed, Joe finds an old friend and is determined to unlock the answers to who kidnapped him, to the death of his wife, and the reason he was locked away for 20 years of his life. But answers aren’t so easy to come by when dealing with such powerful people, and when the answers are brought to light, are they the answers that Joe really wants to know?
Old Boy is a psychological thriller in all senses of the genre. While the pacing of the film is slow, with many portions of the film tending to drag, Lee chose this as a way for the audience to experience what Joe is going through. While we grind through Joe’s day to day living, and his slow fade into what some may call insanity, so it is for the audience. It gives us a sense of what it would be like to be confined in such a space day in and day out, and it is brutal. And we’re only confined to this space for less than half of the film as the audience. But at the same time, we are able to see a man, full of confidence, broken down to his foundation and have to rebuild himself up in order to, for lack of a better term, thrive in his given circumstances. A reflection of the human spirit and the will to survive.
Josh Brolin is the focus of this film, and its success or failure rests squarely on his shoulders. Brolin is at his best with characters he is able to find the deepest layers of, and he finds that with Joe. From the man he goes into his personal prison as, to the man he comes out is a complete transformation. And the ending brings about another transformation, which will not be discussed here. Broling delivers when he is needed. Alas, it is probably not going to save the film. All of the other actors, and quality actors at that with Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Michael Imperioli, to name a few, all take a back seat. Copley, again, shows off his diversity as an actor taking on a role much different from his turns in District 9 and Elysium while Samuel L. Jackson does what Sam does best in a role that he appears to have fun with. Imperioli is a friend of Joe’s who was with him before his abduction and is there for him when he finally returns. But again, this film is about Brolin.
While Old Boy is good in the sense that it provides the audience with a new type of story, putting us into a situation all too unfamiliar, and Brolin delivers a quality performance, in the end, it just doesn’t deliver when it needs to. This is a film that will not necessarily appeal to the masses, but more to those who are fans of the Korean original or want to see Brolin in action. The pacing is slow, which is fine for a quality storyline with outstanding performances across the board, and this doesn’t quite meet that criteria. Kudos to Spike Lee for making the attempt of a remake, but this is one film that didn’t really need to be let into the world.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars