OldBoy (2013) – A Movie Review

Is the world really such a bad place? Many would argue about this, speaking in favor or against it, giving examples of who had the worst life, or who had the most terrible experiences yet. Nevertheless, no one would expect a treatment like Joseph Doucett lived.

The story based on the eponymous Korean movie Oldboy (2003) that in addition is based on the manga of Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaku Minegishi Old Boy depicts Joe Doucett, as an alcoholic womanizer that finds out that living isn't just about sex, drinks or money. His life is in a blink of an eye about to fall apart.

Old Boy new Life

Josh Brolin (Milk, Men in Black 3) have to face an apparently unjustified imprisonment after he was kidnapped. Over the years he cannot understand why he is being held captive in a “fake” motel room, eating only Chinese dumplings and watching bad TV every single day. After two decades of captivity, he manages to get away of all that psychological abuse, and he is set free, only to realize that he must find the man who did this to him, and save his daughter, before it is too late. His performance as a tormented man goes beyond the regular thespian in action movies. He portrays an abusive alcoholic man, switching to a pitiful guy with no hope, and finally ending as a strong fighter looking for his daughter. All in one single character, demonstrating thus that he is nowadays one of the greatest actors in Hollywood.

Sharlto Copley's (District 9, The A-Team) performance as the main antagonist is superb. He depicts a tortured psychopath with a really weird proposition to Doucett. Would Joe accept his proposition? or instead would he seek vengeance after all these years? His acting is really convincing, giving an extra layer of complexity to a somewhat black-and-white role. Copley surrenders himself to the character and makes him his own, adding life and texture to Joe Doucett adversary. Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Godzilla) is more than a pretty face with a great body. She incarnates Marie Sebastian, a nurse who works on the streets aiding the poor. She will ultimately lend Joe a hand in his quest to clean his good name. Her portrayal of Marie is really good, showing us a sensitive girl preoccupied for Joe's wellbeing, and demonstrating too her will to become a great supporting role for Josh Brolin, something that makes them a great couple on screen.

Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) do what he knows best in this movie: To act like a pro. Honestly, I rarely can find a movie that I don't like of Sam Jackson. He portrays a gangster with an unusual business that will get in Joe's way. A bad aspect about his character is that it is a minor role, and would have been great to have him more time on screen, nevertheless, he knows how to squeeze the most of this kind of characters, giving us a great time with his performance as usual.

The Spike Lee's direction (Do the Right Thing, Malcom X) is something worth to mention. Maybe, this is not the best film he can offer, but definitely the man knows his trade, transporting the audience deep into the skin of Joe Doucett, making us feel pity for a “douchebag” character, who only loves to drink, and bullies everybody around him. Lee transfigures this half man through his hardships shaping him into a person with a goal, showing us his struggles and his sorrows. You can see the hand of the director throughout the film, harnessing every element in the movie, although, he wasn't exactly happy for the final results due to artistic differences with the producers. However, that is the signature of a great director, someone who does the job brilliantly with the tools that he is given. The script is great, following some steps of the original movie, but imprinting life of its own. The music of Roque Baños (No se lo digas a nadie, Rosario Tijeras) surrounds the film with suspense and action when it is needed. One problem of the film is the bad depiction of Joe's captivity as the time goes by. Everything (including him) seems to remain the same, as if it had happened only a couple of weeks, although, he has been in there for twenty years. Nevertheless, the character growing is not physical, but a spiritual one. Another criticized aspect of the movie was the extreme violence that the film shows, however, I do think that although, all the brutality and cruelty could have been toned down a bit, it serves a purpose in this film: To express the inner state of Joe's mind and soul.

Elizabeth Olsen. Toronto, 2011. Picture by Tabercil CC BY-SA 2.0 1)

Violent times

Despite its aesthetics and polished finish, this movie is not suitable for everyone. It conveys a powerful, but sad message that comes from the interior of the human soul. The tone of the movie is dark, using violence as a medium to turn the main character against his own mediocre nature. The nihilistic journey makes look Joe anguish like a refugee of a war against society, in which he has already lost from the very beginning. The tragedy of Joe Doucett is something worth of ancient Greece Epics like the Iliad of Homer, in which the man stands after a fall, only to fall down all over again. This is a controversial film from a polemic director, pointing out what is wrong with us using borrowed material.

As a movie Oldboy is great, but if you don't enjoy violence, twisted humor, or dark scenes, this movie is definitely not for you. This is a sad story from beginning to end. In that sense, the film conserves the spirit of the original material, giving an exquisite neo-noir visual style. The movie has some problems, though, and maybe that was a huge turnoff for many film-critics. However, these problems are minor, and they don't change the film as a whole.

There is not happiness for Joe, he has never been and he will never be.



Tabercil (September 11th 2011). Elizabeth Olsen at the Toronto International Film Festival 2011. (Uploaded by MyCanon via Flickr.com) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)], undefined. Picture Available On-line in http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/Elizabeth_Olsen_TIFF_2011.jpg

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