Spike Lee, 2013



It is a question that the grisly plot-twist of Oldboy answers only in the film’s final scene, yet it is one that persists after the credits roll. Why has Joe Doucette, a crass, chauvinistic businessman, been imprisoned in a hotel room for 20 years and framed for the murder of his ex-wife? The other question that remains unanswered is the point of this remake.

Following the 2003 South Korean cult classic, this is Spike Lee’s adaptation of the original manga comic. But besides a few moments of virtuosity from cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, this version is contrived, clichéd, and – in the end – a Hollywood compromise. Unconvincing relationships and stereotyped characters weren’t found in Chanwook Park’s brilliantly barbaric predecessor.

Get alerts on Arts when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article