Oldboy (2013 film)

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Oldboy 2013 film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySpike Lee
Produced by
Screenplay byMark Protosevich
Based on
Music byRoque Baños
CinematographySean Bobbitt
Edited byBarry Alexander Brown
Distributed byFilmDistrict
Release date
  • November 27, 2013 (2013-11-27)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$4.8 million[2]

Oldboy is a 2013 American neo-noir action thriller film directed by Spike Lee and with a screenplay by Mark Protosevich, starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles. The film is an official remake, or as labeled by Lee, a reinterpretation of Park Chan-wook's 2003 South Korean film of the same name, which is also based on the Japanese manga of the same name.

The film was released on November 27, 2013.[3] It was the last film to be distributed by FilmDistrict, before Focus Features absorbed the company in October 2013.[4] It received a mixed reception from both critics and audiences, with praise towards the acting and visual style, but criticism for the comparisons to the original and not utilizing any creative choices to differentiate or justify the film's existence. The film was a box office bomb and showed one of the worst box office performances of Lee's directing career.[5]


In 1993, alcoholic advertising executive Joe Doucett gets drunk after losing a major account. Before he passes out, he sees a woman with a yellow umbrella. When he wakes, he finds himself locked in a hotel room. His unseen captors provide him food, alcohol and personal hygiene items but do not explain why he is held captive. Joe sees a news report saying his ex-wife Donna was raped and murdered and that he is the prime suspect, while their 3-year-old daughter Mia was adopted.

Over the next 20 years, Joe quits drinking and gets into shape, intent on escaping and getting revenge. He compiles a list of all those who might want to imprison him, and writes letters to eventually give to Mia. One day, he sees an interview with Mia, who says she would forgive her father if she ever saw him.

Joe is drugged shortly thereafter, and wakes to find himself outside with a cellphone and a small amount of money. He spots the woman with the yellow umbrella and gives chase, but ends up running into Marie Sebastian, a nurse who offers to help. He refuses but takes her business card. Joe goes to his friend Chucky, and explains what has transpired. While there, Joe gets a call on his cellphone from a man calling himself the "Stranger," mocking him. Joe spends a great deal of effort, with no success, to determine if any of the men on his list is the Stranger. Joe collapses from dehydration, and Chucky calls Marie to help. While he recovers, Marie is taken emotionally by Joe's letters to Mia and offers to help him further. She helps him identify a Chinese restaurant from where Joe's food came from while imprisoned.

Joe follows a delivery from the restaurant to a warehouse where he was imprisoned, and meets Chaney, its owner. Joe tortures Chaney by skinning his neck, and Chaney confesses that the Stranger arranged for his imprisonment. Upon returning to Chucky's bar, Joe finds the Stranger there with the woman with the yellow umbrella, his bodyguard Haeng-bok. The Stranger says they have kidnapped Mia, but if Joe can determine his identity in 46 hours, he'll release Mia, give Joe $20 million in diamonds and proof of his innocence in Donna's murder, and even commit suicide.

Joe learns that Chaney and his men are seeking revenge by attacking Marie, and he races there only to be captured by Chaney. Just as Chaney is about to beat him savagely, the Stranger calls Chaney and offers to pay him for Joe's release, and Chaney lets them go. Marie recognizes the ringtone from the Stranger as the theme song of Evergreen Academy, where Joe attended. At the school, they look through yearbooks; Joe recognizes one student, Adrian Doyle Pryce, and recalls tormenting his sister Amanda, for her promiscuity. This leads to the revelation that their father Arthur sexually abused both of them. As a result, Arthur moved them to Luxembourg, but later murdered his wife and Amanda, severely wounded Adrian and committed suicide. Adrian, who has convinced himself that his father’s abuse was an expression of love, blames the destruction of his family on Joe revealing their secret. Joe calls Chucky with the name, and Chucky confirms that the Stranger is indeed Adrian. When Chucky insults Amanda, Adrian, who is listening on a cloned cellphone, kills him before Joe can arrive. Joe receives a package; he opens it and finds Chucky's tongue. Joe hides Marie in a hotel for her safety, and they end up having passionate sex, unaware Adrian is watching through hidden cameras.

Joe goes to Adrian's penthouse, defeats Haeng-bok and confronts Adrian. Adrian congratulates him, giving him the diamonds and escorting him to where Mia is. Adrian then asks Joe to think why he let Joe go in the first place, and shows that the interview with Mia was all a setup; Mia was a paid actress. Adrian shows Joe that Marie is really his daughter and that he had engineered events to this point to make Joe feel what it is like to lose everything. Adrian then fulfills his promise and commits suicide. Horrified, Joe writes Marie a letter saying they can never see each other again, and leaves her most of the diamonds, using the rest to pay Chaney to return him to the captivity of the hotel room.



Early development[edit]

An American remake of Oldboy previously had director Justin Lin attached.[6] In November 2008, DreamWorks and Universal were securing the rights to the remake, which Will Smith had expressed interest in starring, with Steven Spielberg as director.[7] Mark Protosevich was in talks to write the script, although the acquisition to the remake rights were not finalized.[8] Smith later clarified that Spielberg would not be remaking the film: he would be adapting the manga itself,[9] which is considerably different from the film.[10] In June 2009, the comic's publisher launched a lawsuit against the Korean film's producers for giving the film rights to Spielberg without their permission.[11] Later in November 2009, it was reported that DreamWorks, Spielberg and Smith had stepped back from the project.[12] The producing team announced on 10 November 2009 that the project was dead.[13]

Director and casting[edit]

On July 11, 2011, Mandate Pictures sent a press release stating that Spike Lee would direct a remake of the South Korean film (ignoring the earlier version's adaptation of the manga) with a screenplay written by Protosevich.[14] Josh Brolin was cast to star in the remake as the lead character, while Christian Bale was reportedly in talks to portray the antagonist character,[15] but it was later reported that Colin Firth had been offered the role.[16] Firth later passed on the role,[17] which was later offered to Clive Owen.[18] In May 2012, Deadline reported that Sharlto Copley had officially been cast as the villain Adrian Pryce.[19] Elizabeth Olsen,[20] Samuel L. Jackson[21] and Nate Parker[22] were all later announced to have joined the cast. Parker was later replaced by James Ransone, due to a scheduling conflict.[23] The film marked Jackson's first time working with director Lee since 1991's Jungle Fever.

Principal photography began in October 2012.[24]

Final cut editing[edit]

Spike Lee's version was 140 minutes long, but the producers heavily re-edited the film to 105 minutes[25][26] (re-edits by producers also included the "one-shot hammer" scene[27]); Lee and Josh Brolin were unhappy with it.[26] Lee even removed his trademark "A Spike Lee Joint" credit for a more impersonal "A Spike Lee Film" during the editing process.[26] Brolin has also said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he prefers Lee's version of the film, though it is not clear if this cut will ever be released.[28]


Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 41% based on 138 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Suitably grim and bloody yet disappointingly safe and shallow, Spike Lee's Oldboy remake neither surpasses the original nor adds anything new to its impressive legacy."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[30]

Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gives three of four stars, saying: "Because the Internet moves with the speed and ferocity of a hornet swarm, there's a chance that by the time you read this, Spike Lee's American remake of Oldboy will already have been stung to death. If so, too bad. This American version of Park Chan-Wook's Korean thriller is Lee's most exciting movie since Inside Man—not a masterpiece by any stretch, but a lively commercial genre picture with a hypnotic, obsessive quality, and an utter indifference to being liked, much less approved of."[31]

Justin Chang of Variety said that "Lee and Protosevich have made a picture that, although several shades edgier than the average Hollywood thriller, feels content to shadow its predecessor's every move while falling short of its unhinged, balls-out delirium."[32] Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune, in a one and a half star review noted that "The revenge in Oldboy is neither sweet nor sour; it's just drab".[33]

Eric Kohn, in a largely positive review at Indiewire said: "It's been so long since Lee made such a thoroughly amusing work that fans should have no problem excusing its messiness. But make no mistake... Oldboy is all over the place, sometimes playing like a subdued melodrama and elsewhere erupting into flamboyance and gore."[34]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $885,000 in its first five days, one of the weakest Thanksgiving openings of all time, according to Variety.[35] It opened in 18th place at the box office and finished with a worldwide gross of $5.2 million, against its $30 million budget, making it a box office bomb.[36]

Marketing dispute[edit]

The film's advertising agency was also accused of taking advantage of the creative artist Juan Luis Garcia, who created posters for the film. According to an open letter posted by Garcia on his official website, the agency was asking him to work for too low of an offer, saying that the "exposure" would be more important. Garcia claimed the posters were used and imitated for promotion of the film without paying compensation or credit to the artist.[37][38] Spike Lee responded on his Twitter account saying: "I Never Heard Of This Guy Juan Luis Garcia, If He Has A Beef It's Not With Me. I Did Not Hire Him, Do Not Know Him. Cheap Trick Writing To Me. YO".[39] He also addressed this further on Instagram, "Why Should I Pay Someone Who I Never Met Nor Had Any Contact With Ever? He Never Made Any Deal With Me. Why Don't You Pay Me For Your Stupid Text On Thanksgiving Day?".[40] The issue was eventually settled.[41] Garcia replaced the letter on his website with a message saying "A big Thank You to everyone who contacted me regarding the Oldboy posters. Spike Lee, Art Sims, and I have settled our differences and can put it behind us."[42]


  1. ^ "OLD BOY (18)". Universal Studios. British Board of Film Classification. November 15, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Oldboy (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  3. ^ "Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' Out Next October". ComingSoon.net. CraveOnline. October 19, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  4. ^ "Focus Features Hires Peter Schlessel to Replace James Schamus as CEO". October 2, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  5. ^ Faughnder, Ryan (January 3, 2014). "Biggest box office flops of 2013". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  6. ^ "Justin Lin Talks 'Fast & Furious 4' Gig and 'Oldboy' Departure". JustPressPlay.net. Archived from the original on November 9, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ Michael Fleming (November 6, 2008). "Spielberg, Smith in talks for 'Oldboy'". Variety. Retrieved November 7, 2008.
  8. ^ Jay A. Fernandez and Steven Zeitchik (November 19, 2008). "DreamWorks sets up 'Old Boy' club". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 19, 2008.[dead link]
  9. ^ Brian C. Gibson (November 21, 2008). "Will Smith Says Oldboy Won't be Adaptation of Chan-wook Park's Film". Film School Rejects. Retrieved November 21, 2008.
  10. ^ Elisabeth Rappe (November 21, 2008). "Will Smith Definitely Starring In 'Oldboy,' Says Steven Spielberg Film Won't Be A Remake". MTV Movies Blog. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ "Old Boy Publisher Sues Korean Studio Over U.S. Film Rights". Anime News Network. June 17, 2009. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  12. ^ "Will Smith & Steven Spielberg's Old Boy DEAD!". Latino Review. November 9, 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2009.
  13. ^ "Oldboy Remake Not Proceeding After All". Dreadcentral.com. November 10, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  14. ^ "Spike Lee Confirmed to Direct 'Oldboy'". /Film. July 11, 2011.
  15. ^ Fleming, Mike. "Josh Brolin To Star In Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' Redo For Mandate". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  16. ^ The Tatami Galaxy (November 11, 2011). "BREAKING: Colin Firth Offered Villain Role In OLDBOY | Twitch". Twitchfilm.com. Archived from the original on September 9, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ Enter the Void (December 8, 2011). "Colin Firth Turns Down Spike Lee's OLDBOY | Twitch". Twitchfilm.com. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  18. ^ Youth Without Youth (December 16, 2011). "BREAKING: Clive Owen Offered Villain Role In Spike Lee's OLDBOY | Twitch". Twitchfilm.com. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  19. ^ "Sharlto Copley Cast in 'Open Grave,' Confirmed For Spike Lee's 'Oldboy'". Deadline Hollywood. May 1, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  20. ^ Rosen, Christopher (September 11, 2012). "Elizabeth Olsen: 'Oldboy' Role Is 'Really Exciting'". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  21. ^ "Samuel L. Jackson Joins Oldboy". IGN. August 19, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  22. ^ Brian Gallagher (September 4, 2012). "Oldboy Lands Nate Parker". MovieWeb.com. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  23. ^ "James Ransone Replaces Nate Parker in Oldboy". ComingSoon.net. October 16, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  24. ^ "Production Starts For Spike Lee's 'Oldboy'; What Scene Is Being Shot In These On-set Photos?". Blogs.indiewire.com. October 4, 2012. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  25. ^ "Elizabeth Olsen is creeped out by her own movie, Spike Lee's remake of the Korean thriller 'Oldboy'". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  26. ^ a b c Maane Khatchatourian @MaaneKhat. "'Oldboy' Will Likely Be Trampled By New Releases in Thanksgiving Rush". Variety. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  27. ^ "Spike Lee Says The Studio Re-Edited The One-Shot Hammer Scene In 'Oldboy' Plus Listen To 3 Tracks From The Score | The Playlist". Blogs.indiewire.com. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  28. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (November 1, 2013). "Josh Brolin resists 'man's man' label, but here's 'Oldboy,' 'Labor Day'". latimes.com. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  29. ^ "Oldboy (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  30. ^ "Oldboy". Metacritic. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  31. ^ "Oldboy". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  32. ^ "Oldboy". Variety. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  33. ^ "Oldboy". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  34. ^ "Oldboy". Indiewire. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  35. ^ "Thanksgiving Box Office: 'Catching Fire,' 'Frozen' Serve Up Holiday Records". Variety.
  36. ^ "Oldboy remake bombs, Hunger Games & Frozen soar". www.denofgeek.com.
  37. ^ "Dear Spike Lee". Juan Luis Garcia. November 23, 2013. Archived from the original on November 27, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  38. ^ McMillan, Graeme (November 27, 2013). "Designer Claims Oldboy Poster Designs Were Stolen by Ad Agency". The Hollywood Reporter.
  39. ^ "Twitter / SpikeLee: I Never Heard Of This Guy Juan". Twitter.com. Archived from the original on November 28, 2013. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  40. ^ ""Why Don't You Pay Me For Your Stupid Text On Thanksgiving Day?" – Spike Lee Digs Deep". BleedingCool.com. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  41. ^ "Spike Lee settles copyright lawsuit over 'Oldboy' movie posters - MyNewsLA.com". MyNewsLA. April 15, 2015.
  42. ^ "Thank you – Juan Luis Garcia Movie Poster Design & Photography". Juan Luis Garcia.

External links[edit]