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Josh Brolin in OLD BOY

Spike Lee’s skill as a filmmaker is undeniable. But the Americanization of films that have been major successes in other languages doesn’t always work out very well, does it? Doesn’t Hollywood’s big plan for world domination involve the steady supply of big dumb action films that play well in countries across the world? So what then does one make of a Hollywood remake of a Korean revenge movie that flips many of the revenge movie conventions on its head throughout its run-time?

Mr. Lee’s version of Park Chan-wook’s 2003 film remains mostly faithful to the original. But this new film, off a screenplay by Mark Protosevich, changes certain aspects of the twist ending as well as the tormentor’s back story, and it is in this rejiggering of the original narrative that this new movie comes loose and fails to sit together as a solid piece of (dark) entertainment.

Josh Brolin brings a committed ferocity to the character of Joe Doucett, a scumbag who wakes up one morning in a faux hotel room that remains his prison cell for twenty years. As the young woman who helps him find his way in the world when he is inexplicably released, Elizabeth Olsen is–there is no better word for it–radiant. And they are the reasons to keep watching this movie. Because the two men who play the antagonists–Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley–are overly hammy.

That sequence where Doucett takes down several members of a football team in his first real world altercation is a thing of savage beauty. But those bursts of brilliance are no match for screenwriting contrivances that litter this narrative.

Final Analysis: Big on violence, and some visual flourishes but they’ve also messed up a lot of things, like that long corridor fight sequence from the original. And the new symmetrical twist ending just didn’t work for me.

My Advice: Skip it, and rent the original.