Trying to see a horror movie in a theater can be a difficult experience and my attempts at viewing Spike Lee’s Oldboy illustrates it . I noted the film was in release this week and found it listed at the Regal Oaks Cinemas. I thought about seeing it last Thursday, but the show times were listed at 5ish and 7ish, not do-able with my schedule. No problem, I though, I’ll just catch it Friday. So Friday I show up at the theater and discover the movie had one showing that day, 12:30 PM, and what do you know I just missed it! So I ended up driving down to King of Prussia to catch it at the United Artist Stadium where it had an 11 PM showing.
After chilling for a few hours at a coffee shop, I went back to the Googleplex theater, found my screen and sat down to watch the movie….with 10 other people. Something tells me this version of Oldboy didn’t do to well locally. Which seems a trend with the latest batch of Americanized versions of foreign movies.
James Brolin plays Joe Doucett, a drunk advertising minion who acts like a waste of air. During a meeting with a potential client, he gets caught trying to put the moves on the other man’s wife. Later that evening, totally wasted, he staggers down the street trying to find an open bar. Instead he finds a mysterious woman with an umbrella. Then he awakens to find himself in a cheap motel room. But it isn’t a motel room, it’s a private prison where he’s been incarcerated for reasons he can’t understand. All he has is a limited tv in the wall, a shower and a painted scene which changes to mark the passing of the day. He gets Chinese food shoved under a slot in the door every day. He’s kept there for 20 years. At one point he’s going crazy, but manages to focus on the thoughts of his daughter, who was only 3 when he was kidnapped. He uses the time to build himself up physically and write endless letters to his daughter, which he carefully keeps.
Then, at the point of escaping by digging a block out of his shower, he wakes up inside a trunk in an open field. He’s clean-shaven and wearing a suit. He knocks the trunk open, finds a wallet full of money, his letters in a bag, and a cell phone. It’s up to him to find out who imprisoned him for 20 years and why. And time is running out.
Anyone who has seen the earlier (2003) Korean movie on which this is based will know gruesome ending. Spike Lee manages to give it his own unique take. I don’t want to get to far into the plot, but Lee amplifies the ending. Needless to say, this is not a “date” movie.
Josh Brolin does a good job playing Joe Doucett. He’s a very physical actor. He gives an excellent performance going from a lout to a martyr. Samuel L Jackson is one of the other surprises in this movie. He plays the warden of the private “prison” and is in full Pulp Fiction mode. Action fans will appreciate the scene where Douchett finds the prison where he was held for 20 years and takes on wave after wave of henchmen.
I just wish going to see the movie hadn’t been such task.