Movie review: Oldboy (R21)

Thriller/104 minutes

Rating: 3/5

Loutish, self-destructive advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) seems to anger and alienate everyone around him. One night, after a bender, he wakes up in a locked hotel room, with no means of escape. Food arrives through a hole in the door and, on the television, he learns that he is wanted for his wife's murder.

Do not call this a remake, admonishes director Spike Lee. The Korean version from director Park Chan Wook (2003) has a powerful cult following, but Lee's film is not based on it.

Rather, this work, like Park's, is built on the source Japanese manga written by Garon Tsuchiya, first published in 1997.

Not having read the manga, I cannot say if Lee's adaptation is faithful, but it does share one trait with adult-oriented Japanese comics. It is jaw-droppingly violent and, in one overlong skin-slicing scene in particular, it veers into gore-horror territory, fully justifying its R21 rating.

Bullying an audience into a reaction of disgust is easy, and it is alarming that a director as seasoned as Lee cannot tell the difference between cheap shocks and genuine provocation.

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