Sunday, December 1, 2013


A lot of would-be cineastes have reflexively pooh-poohed Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean film “Oldboy,” but I prefer Lee’s version.

He’s brought his trademark palette to the story of a down-on-his-luck alcoholic kidnapped off the streets and brought, for reasons he doesn’t understand, to a sort of hotel-cum-private-prison (from the television, he learns he’s wanted for the rape and murder of his ex-wife, which he didn’t commit), where he’s kept (by whom, he also doesn’t know) for the next 20 years. Color grounds the material, makes it more real and less a film-school exercise. So do the performances of Josh Brolin and, as the social worker he meets after being just-as-mysteriously released, the superb Elizabeth Olsen. I’ll remember things from Lee’s film: the bizarre and highly limited selection of TV programming available to Brolin, the demonic eyes of the smiling bellhop in the poster that cruelly asks “What can we do to improve your stay?” and the brilliant, devastating conclusion to which the story builds. Oh yes, and of course the dumplings.

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