Directed by Spike Lee
On DVD 104 min
Spike Lee’s OLDBOY is a remake of the 2003 South Korean cult film of the same name. Lee creates an intense mystery thriller filled with sex and violence and lots of afflictive emotional states for its characters. Some may judge the film as just another action flick with a motive to make money; what my film professor used to refer to as a junk food movie. But OLDBOY is no junk food movie. It may seem tasteless on the surface, but the flavor runs deep.
The story begins when drunken advertising executive Joe Doucett, expertly portrayed by Josh Brolin, hits on a big client’s girlfriend and loses the deal he just closed. Joe continues his bender, ends up being knocked out and wakes up in a hotel room with no way out. His captors keep him alive by pushing food under the door and we watch him transform into a vengeful killer as he spends 20 years in the room before he is released.
Out from his prison he almost immediately meets compassionate Marie Sebastian, played beautifully by Elizabeth Olsen, who allows us to fall in love with Marie from the get go. I’m not going to say much more about the plot, you have to watch the film to see what happens. It is full of twists and turns and worth paying attention to.
Packed with motives for revenge the story plays out powerful messages. It tells us how brutal the impact of our words can be. Something carelessly spoken can come back to haunt us big time. The film tells us about judging others. We’re quick to develop our arrogant opinions about the actions of others, but if we take time to look we can see that given the same circumstances, the exact thoughts and beliefs, we would do just what the other person does. The story speaks of anger and what indulging anger can do, how we build worlds around anger and go to war destroying ourselves, and others around us.
This movie is definitely worth seeing. It is violent for sure. I had to cover my eyes a few times to reduce the impact of the gore. But it is well shot using expressionist technique, cast with precision and powerfully thought provoking. It doesn’t let us off the hook for unkindness, we are locked up for that, but compassion has a different outcome. For opening our hearts we get what we yearn for, that wish fulfilling gem.