When it was first announced that Spike Lee would be directing an English-language remake of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, fans of the film were understandably worried. The original film was, quite simply, a masterpiece. It’s a tragedy that’s almost Shakespearian in quality, and every element of the film, from the actors to the set design to the special effects, is perfectly designed to tell this harrowing tale. Plus, it contains what may be the most viscerally impressive fight scene ever committed to film. In short, it’s a great movie that works brilliantly on a number of levels, and honestly, it seems unlikely that anyone, Spike Lee included, could do a better job with the story than Park Chan-wook.
Of course, the original Oldboy had one glaring flaw as far as Hollywood is concerned: subtitles. No matter how great a film is you just can’t expect American audiences to seek out a movie that forces them to read. The Constitution guarantees us all the right to be as illiterate and lazy as we’d like, and that goes along nicely with our collective desire to use our brain meat as little as possible. Yes, it’s a depressing point, but you can’t really deny its validity: How many foreign-language movies have been actual, legitimate hits here in America?
With the assumption that we’ve impressed upon you readers that this remake is potentially a very bad, depressing idea, on to today’s news. According to The Hollywood Reporter, FilmDistrict snapped up the US distribution rights for Lee’s version of Oldboy at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival. Given that FilmDistrict co-founder Peter Schlessel has an executive producer credit on the film, this agreement isn’t entirely surprising, but it is something of a final nail in the coffin of hope that somehow Lee’s Oldboy might not be made. This movie is happening people, and according to THR the production starts shooting a mere month from now.
So, now that pessimism is utterly fruitless, we may as well make the best of this imminent situation. As much as the remake itself seems like the very definition of a cynical, money-driven Hollywood decision, we do like some aspects of the idea. Specifically, that Josh Brolin has been cast to portray protagonist Oh Dae-Su (or whatever he’s called in the American version; probably Bill or Steve). While we’re unconvinced that Brolin can trump the performance given by Min-sik Choi in the complex lead role, we do enjoy everything we’ve seen him in, and are quite curious to see how he will interpret the character. Likewise, when we heard that Samuel L. Jackson would be joining the cast, our excitement for the film greatly increased. Not because we think Jackson’s presence somehow validates this remake’s existence, but simply because Mr. Jackson is entertaining in any movie. We could watch that guy read a phone book, as long as he occasionally drops a few angry F-bombs along the way.
While we continue to wait for the studios to offer up a release date for this project, we’d like to recommend that you all visit your favorite Netflix device and watch the original, 2003 version of Oldboy. It was recently added to the service’s instant streaming option, and it’s absolutely worth two hours of your Friday afternoon.