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Oldboy 2013 ***

Critics rushed to trash Spike Lee’s re-imagining of the Korean thriller, as if to prove their fidelity to Park Chan-wook’s original by denigrating its successor. But leaving the original aside, Lee’s film is a well-mounted and entertainingly wild film in its own right. Josh Brolin plays an ordinary Joe who finds himself kidnapped from the street and imprisoned in a fake hotel room for 20 years. His diet of vodka and dumplings abruptly comes to an end, and he’s released into the modern world on a mission to find out who has perpetrated this crime on him and why. Lee’s film feels truncated and impersonal by the director’s standards, but it’s also ingenious in the way it reworks some of the action scenes; the hammer and corridor set piece is amped up even further, and the controversial pay-off between Joe and his side-kick Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) is not shied away from. Oldboy is no masterpiece, but neither is it a disaster; like Inside Man, it’s a capable thriller that demonstrates that Lee’s films have a wider subject than himself.


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