Remake Rumble: Oldboy (2003) vs Oldboy (2013)


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The 411: Kidnapped, held hostage for 20 years and framed for the murder of his ex-wife, a man sets out on a quest for answers and vengeance once released.

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Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) vs Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik)

In the original OLDBOY, Oh Dae-su was shown to be a driven bit mad by his time as a prisoner in the hotel. Upon release he was an uncouth nearly savage beast of a man bent on revenge who got softened a bit by the love of a good (but incredibly terribly) woman. This slight insanity was played perfectly by Choi Min-sik who has a way about him when it comes to playing violently detached tortured souls.
Brolin’s Joe Doucett never really seemed to cross that line to total nutjob convincingly and instead was just a telephoned in version of “standard stoic Josh Brolin performance”. I expected and wanted more from him.
Advantage: Oldboy ’03

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Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) vs Mi-Do (Hye-jeong Kang)

Mi-do was a bit of a flighty doe-eyed stock damsel in distress and Kang played that part very well. She also had a weird chemistry with Choi even before the true relationship between their characters were revealed.
Elizabeth Olsen was a bit more soulful and serious in the role. She also played up the tragic aspect of the character’s past much more. In Olsen’s hands there was nothing funny or flighty about Marie which was not a bad thing at all.
Advantage: Oldboy ’13

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Adrian (Sharlto Copley) vs Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae)

I don’t know what the hell kind of direction Spike Lee gave to Copley about his character but whatever it was it resulted in something incredibly odd and terrible. Copley’s overacting and bug-eyed weirdness was just so off-putting and out of place for the character he was playing. Camp was not the correct acting choice and that seemed to be what Copley decided would be the right fit.
Yoo was perfectly vile in the role of Lee Woo-jin. He was a sadistic monster wrapped up in matinee idol good looks and expensive clothes. The depths of his depravity were shocking and Yoo hit every beat of the character perfectly.
Advantage: Oldboy ’03

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Haeng-Bok (Pom Klementieff) vs Mr. Han (Kim Byeong-ok)

A platinum blonde specter of death…that is what the original OLDBOY’s Mr. Han was and I loved the character. He was like a transplant from one of those cool martial arts films Jet Li used to make and he had one of the best scenes in the movie complete with a stylishly tragic ending.
Haeng-Bok made very little impression to me and seemed more like Adrian’s concubine than his bodyguard. I understand going for a little diversity through gender swapping but removing all of the coolness factor from the character seemed like a waste.
Advantage: Oldboy ’03

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Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson) vs Park Cheol-woong (Oh Dal-su)

Oh Dal-su reminded me of a slightly more butch version of Ho from WAY OF THE DRAGON. But Samuel L. Jackson was doing top flight Samuel L. Jackson which trumps everything. Plus he did another one of his patented ridiculous hairstyles for this movie which just adds to the coolness.
Advantage: Oldboy ’13

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1987 Movie vs 2014 Movie

The Original OLDBOY is a classic of not just Asian film-making but film-making in general and cemented Park Chan-wook as one of the most bold directors working today. The distinct cinematography and original way he framed certain shots not to mention the epic unbroken 3 minute hammer fight scene that is one of the best fight scenes ever filmed as well as a major cinematic inspiration for any action film since 2003. Park just made a beautifully tragic and fearless film that never wavers from presenting awful images and disturbing scenes regardless of how it might offend or disgust audiences.
Lee makes a good film and tries his best to measure up to the original but it is a herculean effort that he ultimately falters at. The re-shot hammer scene pales in comparison to the original; the ending is not nearly as unwaveringly dark and complex as the original’s…it just aint the original. And one of the other changes that really didn’t work for me was Lee’s decision to spend so much time with Brolin’s character prior to his imprisonment. I don’t see any benefits of showing that Joe was a loser drunken deadbeat father and a bit of a misogynist. I also found the change to the villain’s motives to be a headscratcher. Going from sibling incest to a molesting father seemed to be a bid to garner sympathy for the bad guy that never actually works. I felt more for the guy who was in love with his sister than for the guy who was being raped by his father.
Advantage: OLDBOY ’03

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Final Verdict

The original OLDBOY is a classic that has influenced other films since it’s release and featured great performances and some of the most in-your-face moments of any movie I have ever seen. Spike Lee’s OLDBOY is not a bad move (it is actually pretty entertaining) but it doesn’t rise to the heights of the original and is quickly forgotten moments after the credits role. Aside from Hollywood thinking that US audiences hate subtitles I can’t think of one valid reason why this movie was remade.
OLDBOY (2003): A- OLDBOY (2013): B-

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5 thoughts on “Remake Rumble: Oldboy (2003) vs Oldboy (2013)”

  1. You know, it’s good to see someone with an open mind concerning remakes. Yes, Oldboy is a classic film and the remake is going to be somewhat inferior to it but to paraphrase Mr, Jackson so monkeyloving what? These little bitches that gripe and piss and moan every time they hear about a remake piss me off to no end, “Oh, they’re remaking Oldboy, It’s going to suck, Wah, Wah.” My question to them is this: Have you seen the movie yet? No? Then shut your monkeyloving mouth.
    What was I saying? Oh, yeah., Good comparison, Derek. I like Scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch.
    Seriously, good comparison.

    Like

    1. It is good to keep an open mind where remakes are concerned. Sure it can sometimes result in a crappy movie but it also can result in a kick-ass movie like the Dawn of the Dead remake that is one of my favorite horror movies.

      Liked by 2 people

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