Movie Review: Oldboy

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Oldboy_20I knew nothing about Spike Lee’s remake of “Oldboy” before going in.  And boy, what a shocker.

An alcoholic advertising executive, Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin,“Jonah Hex”), was abducted and put in a solitary confinement in a windowless motel room, fed with vodka and Chinese dumplings, for 20 years and for no apparent reason.

During captivity, he learned that his ex-wife was assaulted and murdered –with him as the prime suspect.  His baby daughter was safe and adopted by a loving family.  Then he suddenly finds himself inside an unlocked storage box in a park, inexplicably released.

In an obsessive quest to find out what happened to him and track down his long-lost daughter, Joe runs into hired thugs, led by a henchman, Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson, “The Avengers”). He’s assisted by an old friend, bartender Chucky (Michael Imperioli) and a sympathetic social worker, Marie (Elizabeth Olsen, soon to be seen in “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”).

Eventually Joe meets his captor, Adrian (Sharlto Copley, “Elysium”), who tells him that he has captured his daughter.  Joe only has 48 hours to figure out the identity of his tormentor and the reason for his imprisonment.  If he could not find the answers within the specified timeframe, his daughter would be killed.  It has never occurred to Joe that Adrian has him exactly where he wants him to be. He may be free physically, but he’s still very much tormented and trapped in a queasy conspiracy.

Who is the puppet master?  What is his motivation?  What kind of game is he playing?  Why did he kidnap, imprison, frame and then release this man?  What is the connection between the two?  And what is the endgame?

It would be better if you haven’t seen the 2003 Korean original.  Stay away from spoilers.  The villain’s plan has a clear flaw where its sick success relies on a certain factor.  The movie has far more gore than your average suspense thriller. But, it’s worth staying through the shocking end.

The unraveling and ending of this who-and-why dunnit mystery is crazily twisted and a double blow to the gut.

Copyright (c) 2014. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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