Oldboy: Has Spike Lee lost his stylistic touch?
Unlike the Park Chan-wook picture it's based on, Spike Lee's Oldboy is drab and humorless, devoid of the stylistic curlicues that can get you through even a bad Spike Lee film. Like its hero, a clueless lug who's imprisoned for twenty years by an invisible captor for a transgression he doesn't remember committing, it stumbles onto the movie landscape, blinking in the glare and wondering, Where am I? Where did I come from? It's not just a movie about brainwashing; it's a brainwashed movie. You'd need to have completely forgotten Park's original to get any electrical charge from Lee's version. Josh Brolin plays Joe Doucett, a bumbling and not particularly lovable drunk who awakens in a prison cell that resembles a cut-rate motel room. He sees no human beings other than the ones on his TV set, and even that brings bad news: Watching a true-crime show, he learns that the world believes he has vanished after raping and murdering his wife, essentially leaving his daughter an orphan. The sight of his little girl brings tears — transformation alert! — to this jamoke's eyes. And then one day he's spilled back out into the world with a smartphone and a black suit. Whenever the phone rings, it's a creepy caller dropping mysterious directives in his lap. Luckily, Doucett meets Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), a humanitarian-aid worker. She's the sunny-day counterpart to his thundercloud mug, eager to help him unravel his mysteries, even though his sexual charisma is translated only through the occasional grunt and the fact that he looks like a constipated Michael Shannon. There's no poetry in his soul. And you can't make Oldboy without poetry.
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