For an Asian female, watching Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy” in 2003 was somewhat agonizing, akin to a wisdom tooth extraction by a dentist with a limited supply of painkillers. Now Spike Lee (“Do the Right Thing,” “Miracle at St. Anna”) has made a remake under the same name — “Oldboy.” This time, the dentist has zero painkillers and his office is a dingy, back-alley joint with hygiene problems. After such an ordeal you tell your friends, “Honestly, I could have died.” And that about sums up the viewing experience of “Oldboy.”

Josh Brolin stars as Joe Doucett, the protagonist who is kidnapped, incarcerated and released more than a decade later, in the meantime his wife has been brutally murdered and the world believes he’s responsible.

Lee’s “Oldboy” is pretty much faithful to Chan-wook’s but unfortunately it lacks the natural visual flair that gave the original its distinction. The gross-out violence here is witless and sad, and the choreographed fight scenes have little grace. The protagonist’s thirst for vengeance, combined with a burning desire to reunite with his daughter, seems a bit out of place for a sleazy American advertising executive (as the role was rewritten).

Director Spike Lee
Language English
Opens Opens June 28, 2014

And if you’re wondering whether Brolin tucks into a live octopus … now that’s a spoiler.

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