Monday Morning Critic – On Spike Lee’s Oldboy (2013) And The Nature Of Plot Twists vs. Hollywood Re-Imagination (Spoilers) – Spike Lee’s 25th Hour Reviewed

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The one thing that’s been interesting me this week has been the release of Spike Lee’s Oldboy, a remake of the Korean film which was based off the original manga. I remember being recommended this film, and told nothing about it, because it was so good. And then the film’s ultimate plot twist kicks in … which I think is the reason why I think it got as recommended to people en masse: to imagine the look on their face when it happens.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free to skip below to the DVD review. The rest of this won’t make a ton of sense because it’s specifically vague.

For those who do … well .. to remind you I’m calling this a spoiler tag. And this will also be in white, to match the background, so you can’t say that I didn’t warn you. And for those who just want to know, and don’t feel like Googling it, what happens is the following:

It turns out Joe’s been banging his daughter the whole time and the whole experiment is an elaborate, absolutely evil way of getting back at him for something equally awful he did as a teenager. What he thought was his daughter was just a trick and the gal he’s been banging is the fruit of his looms.

It’s the plot twist of plot twists; I can’t remember one that has stuck me with as long, or as profoundly, as that one. It’s what Oldboy unforgettable; sometimes you don’t want to know the truth about horrible things that have happened to you. When they announced that the film was being remade with Spike Lee directing, Josh Brolin attached and from a script by Mark Protosevich there was one thought that came to my mind.

Does Spike Lee have the gusto in him to do that plot twist?

Normally I wouldn’t ask it of any remake and any film, mainly because remaking a film in Hollywood usually means that they also go through with whatever ending the original had. Hollywood doesn’t mess with things that have already succeeded on that level, usually, which is why the 2013 version of Oldboy interests me. Any other director probably might’ve changed the ending, at least to some degree, because it’s a total mind-blower and kind of creepy too. Throw in the film’s budget of $30 million, a very substantial sum of money, and the pressure would be on all involved to change the ending to satisfy the American audience.

But Spike Lee is exactly the right kind of director to want to keep it in if it works for him, artistically, and would fight like hell to keep it in.

That alone makes this film that much more interesting on an intellectual basis to start out with. It’s the one reason why I’ve always had a healthy respect for him; Spike Lee has the ability to make the exact film he wants without interference or someone taking the film away from him in final edit. It’s why he rightfully gets held to a higher standard than a lot of film-makers: what he makes are his films and nothing less. There’s nothing shoved onto him and the end result is the pure distillation of Spike’s story-telling style.

It’s why the ending of Oldboy, for all its warts and mind-blowing effects, is something I’m not sure if Spike is going to do or not. He got an awful lot of money, one of his biggest budgets to date in an industry that has become significantly more about making money than art. Hollywood is like any business, trying to make money with every film, and thus green-lighting this film with that ending if it were an original concept would be difficult.

But since it’s a remake … that makes it that much more of a crap shoot.

That’s why this film has suddenly gone from being a solid matinee viewing down the road to a first week watch. Does Spike Lee go full in with the remake? The plot twist is rumored to have been the reason why Will Smith didn’t take the film when it was offered with Steven Spielberg attached to direct and Dreamworks producing four years ago. It takes a special sort to want remake or re-adapt the original material; whether or not Spike Lee goes all in remains to be seen. And that’s why I’m fascinated.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

From elsewhere in the Inside Pulse Network:

My guy Travis did two things of note. One, his thoughts on Catching Fire were pretty spot on. The other a look at 50 years of wrasslin.

And now on MMC … we DANCE!

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge


This Week’s DVD – 25th Hour

Monty (Ed Norton) has 24 hours left before he spends seven years in state prison for drug possession. Before he checks in to prison he has one night to take care of all the unfinished business with his friends, his girlfriend and his father.

For as much as I make fun of Spike Lee anytime I make a list, with the requisite joke being he dislikes Italians, I’ve always had a healthy respect for the man. He’s an oddball of a director: for every time you watch something like Miracle at St. Anna, or the final hour of Malcolm X, there’s a ton of great films he’s done. This is one of them.

Very much enjoyed this, mainly because it’s a fairly simple story of a man tying all the loose ends of his emotional life up before going away. Monty is a guy who knows he screwed up, badly, but just wants everyone to see him go away without anything unresolved emotionally. For his two best friends (Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman) it’s acknowledging that the guy they know is for all intents and purposes dead. For his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) it’s an uneasy attempt at ending the relationship they’re in. For his father (Bryan Cox) its closure, to try and find an understanding about his situation. It’s not easy and for one night Monty, who got to live like a king, has to come face to face with his life being changed forever.

I loved this film mainly because it captures New York so profoundly well. There are great films of every city and this is one that makes you not only see it but feel it. New York is a film that gets used a lot for film but doesn’t often get the vibe of what it is on a base, primal level. 25th Hour gets you there.

Highly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Black Nativity – A religious film by someone not named Tyler Perry

Skip it – So far it looks lousy and religious films that look lousy in trailers end up being awful in reality.

Homefront – James Franco does his hillbilly impression before he gets Statham’d.

See it – Statham films may not be very good as a whole … but they are what they are.

Oldboy (2013) – The American version of the Korean film. In Limited Release

See it – The Korean one was epic … and this could be quite good or insanely awful. Either way it’ll be watchable

The Book Thief –Oscar Bait mad lib. In Limited release

Skip it – This whole film screams “give me an Oscar”

Frozen (2013) – A Disney film about the ice and snow, apparently.

Skip it – Its animated fare not done by Pixar … thus the odds aren’t in its favor.

Mandela (Long Walk to Freedom) – Stringer Bell is Nelson Mandela. In limited release

See it – Idris Elba is about to become a huge star … and this is where it starts.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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