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Spike Lee
Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Pom Klementieff, James Ransone, Max Casella
Writing Credits:
Garon Tsuchiya (manga), Nobuaki Minegishi (manga), Mark Protosevich

Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free.

Obsessed with vengeance, a man sets out to find out why he was kidnapped and locked into solitary confinement for 20 years without reason.

Box Office:
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$885.382 thousand on 583 screens.
Domestic Gross
$2.162 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 3/4/2014

• “The Making of Oldboy” Featurette
• Extended and Alternate Scenes
• “Talking Heads” Featurette
• “Transformation” Featurette
• “Workout Video”
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Oldboy [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 21, 2014)

With 2013’s Oldboy, Spike Lee adapts the 2003 Korean cult classic. The story starts in the early 1990s, as we meet sleazy advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin). During one of his many drunken escapades, unknown parties kidnap Joe and imprison him.

Without explanation, Joe gets released – 20 years after the start of his confinement. Understandably angry at his treatment, Joe plots his revenge on all involved. We follow his attempts to figure out what led to his incarceration as well his bloody path toward vengeance.

Sometimes when I see a movie, I leave with a lot of questions about seemingly minor issues, and this may be the case for Oldboy. In particular, Joe’s age causes confusion. At the movie’s start, he looks like he’s in his mid-40s. When the story leaps ahead 20 years, Joe looks like he’s in his mid-40s.

This leads to a disconnect, as the viewer may think about Joe’s actual age than anything else that occurs. Was he supposed to be mid-20s in 1993 and now is his “apparent age”, or was he supposed to be mid-40s 20 years ago and now we’re supposed to accept him as mid-60s? As the film progresses, we eventually figure out that 1993 Joe was intended to be in his twenties, but this happens so late in the movie that we’ve already puzzled over the subject for a long period.

Why do I obsess over a potentially meaningless aspect of the film? Because Oldboy gives me so little else about which to think or care.

When I enjoy a story, I can ignore/forgive lapses in logic, but when a lackluster movie comes with substantial problems, I find myself distracted by these confusing elements, especially when they would’ve been easy to correct. Just use a little makeup and CG on “1993 Joe” to “de-age” Brolin and this becomes a non-issue.

This isn’t the biggest concern found during Oldboy, however, as its main issue relates to its uncompelling story and characters. I guess it purports to give us a tale of redemption, as we follow Joe’s slow growth past the drunken jerk he was in 1993, but we don’t care. We don’t find much reason to attach ourselves to Joe and invest in his story, so as much as we should root for him, we don’t.

A surprisingly flat performance from Brolin doesn’t help. Usually money in the bank, Brolin seems unsure how to play Joe and he tends to over-emote and over-play the part. He fails to connect to Joe’s struggles which means we can’t relate to him either.

At the core, Oldboy flops because Lee doesn’t seem able to attach himself to the material either. With 2006’s Inside Man, he branched out well, but here Lee simply feels wrong for the part. Lee touches on the surface of the movie’s emotions but doesn’t dig into them in a satisfying manner.

Lee also can’t make the film’s contrived narrative convincing or compelling. He doesn’t seem especially sure where the tale needs to go, so it wanders from one plot point to another without much clarity. We never invest in the characters or the quest, so that leaves us without much to which we can attach ourselves.

All of this means that Oldboy delivers a monotonous revenge drama without any of the juice one would expected from it. Despite good talent behind it, the film flails and never threatens to fulfill its potential.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

Oldboy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Nothing notably problematic materialized here.

Sharpness looked mostly solid. Some softness appeared in wide shots, a factor exacerbated by a lot of stylistic grain; that left the image less clear than usual. Those were cinematographic choices, though, so I found it hard to fault the transfer. Jaggies and shimmering stayed absent, while edge enhancement failed to appear. Source flaws were a non-factor, as the movie stayed clean.

Like most modern thrillers, Oldboy often favored a teal tint, though some scenes veered toward an amber overtone. Within their parameters, the hues appeared well-developed. Blacks seemed deep and tight, while shadows were decent; they could be slightly dense, but they remained positive for the most part. In the end, the transfer proved to be fine for the material.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Oldboy, it was also good but unexceptional. Even with a mix of action scenes, the soundscape never really impressed. Oh, fights and other set pieces added decent involvement and pizzazz, but I simply thought the mix lacked the level of activity expected from a flick in this one’s genre. The surrounds gave us positive reinforcement, but they didn’t really stand out in a memorable way.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech was crisp and distinctive, with no edginess or other concerns. Music was full and rich, while effects came across as lively and accurate. The track boasted good low-end when appropriate. The somewhat restricted soundfield made this a “B” mix.

When we shift to the set’s extras, we open with The Making of Oldboy. In this 16-minute, 52-second piece, we hear from director Spike Lee, makeup department head Christien Tinsley, production designer Sharon Seymour, fight coordinator JJ Perry, Chapman/Leonard Ultra Maverick driver Dan Pilmaier, Chapman/Leonard Hydrascope/G3 technician Craig Rice, producer Doug Davison, and actors Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Michael Imperioli and Samuel L. Jackson. The show covers character/makeup and set design, stunts/fights, cast and performances, Lee’s impact on the production, and a few other areas. “Making” works better than most programs of its sort; while it comes with some fluff, it includes more details than usual.

Talking Heads goes for two minutes, 40 seconds as it involves Lee, Brolin, Imperioli, Olsen, Jackson, Copley, and writer/co-producer Mark Protosevich. They discuss a few story/character areas in this glorified trailer. Skip it.

Next comes the two-minute, 11-second Transformation. It provides thoughts from Brolin, Lee, Protosevich, Imperioli, and Copley. This one focuses on Brolin’s physical changes for the film. It’s pretty inessential, though it has a couple of minor insights.

For the final featurette, we go to Workout Video. This runs 49 seconds and simply shows a montage of movie snippets. It’s pretty worthless.

Four Extended and Alternate Scenes occupy a total of 11 minutes, 46 seconds. These include “The Tape – Alternate”, “Ramp Fight – Extended”, “Adrian Watched from the Penthouse – Extended”, and “Haeng-Bok in Bed – Extended”. Arguably the only good part of the movie, the longer “Ramp Fight” is interesting but the others don’t add much.

The disc opens with ads for American Hustle, Pompeii and Inside Llewyn Davis. These also appear under Previews along with clips for Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher and Cold Comes the Night. No trailer for Oldboy shows up here.

With an interesting premise, a good cast and a talented director behind it, the American adaptation of Oldboy should’ve been a winner. Instead, it never quite finds its footing, as a mix of poor choices and narrative issues leave it as a muddled mess. The Blu-ray presents generally positive picture and audio along with a handful of bonus materials. Not much about Oldboy succeeds.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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