In 2003, Park Chan-wook, one of my favorite directors released a brilliant film, Oldboy (2003) as part of his Vengeance Trilogy. The Korean mystery thriller is amazing and its fight scenes are legendary, even being replicated in the lackluster Repo Men with Jude Law or the more recent Daredevil
With a cult following and large Asian demographic to get behind any new movie, it was only a matter of time before the film would get a Hollywood remake. Will Smith had originally tried to get the ball rolling with Steven Spielberg as director but after legal trouble with the original source material the project was cancelled. Then in 2011, Mandate Pictures, started filming with director Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin. Released in thanksgiving 2013 American Oldboy totally bombed in the theaters and was one of Spike Lee’s biggest money losers.
The first time I heard of the remake was when controversy erupted over Spike Lee supposedly theft of the movie poster artwork. I actually got excited, and a little nervous, that it was coming out! Even if the remake was only half the movie the Korean version was it would be a great movie. Yet my worst fears were realized as the remake was so bad that it was to the point that it was almost comical.
They took all the elements that made the film great and changed them for no real reason. In the Korean film there was the hypnosis of the father and daughter which was changed but that is not a big deal. What did bother me was how certain aspects of violence was scaled back. First of all when he comes back to the hotel. In the Korean version he starts yanking out teeth with the iconic hammer. The American version? He cuts strips of skin from Samuel Jackson’s neck. A hammer in the mouth, metal against teeth, the twisting motion horrifying. Strips of skin? Not so much. Also the in the final reveal scene he doesn’t cut out his own tongue!
That’s key to the whole story!
He won’t talk now!
But the biggest fuck you to the movie had to be the reveal when learn why Mr Richy Rich started this whole ploy. In the Korean version it was a sexual experience between a brother and a sister, disgusting sure, but understandable. In the American version it was this bizarre love affair between the father and the whole family, who were apparently gagging for daddies’ sexual feeling. There was one scene which had me laughing uncontrollably as the father goes through the house and murders his family one by one. I’m pretty sure it was unintentional but you couldn’t not laugh it was just so over the top.
Now I’m sure everyone has seen the reports that Spike Lee created a masterpiece at 140 minutes long, but that the evil hollywood producers cut out all the important parts and re-edited it to 105 minutes (A furious Spike lee changed the title screen from a Spike Lee Joint to Spike Lee Film).
I just don’t how different it could have been! Sure the iconic fight scene in the hotel could have been better but all the other elements and director directions are what ruined it for me, not what missing.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not one of those people who slams every remake. I just posted about how the American remake of The Bridge is a great series. I thought the American Departed and the American La Femme Nikita (Point of No Return 1993) were better than their Hong Kong and French/Italian originals.
American Oldboy bombed in the box office not because it was misunderstand or lost in translation it just sucked.
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