Jump to content

Oldboy (2013 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Theatrical release poster
Directed bySpike Lee
Screenplay byMark Protosevich
Based on
Produced by
CinematographySean Bobbitt
Edited byBarry Alexander Brown
Music byRoque Baños
Distributed byFilmDistrict
Release date
  • November 27, 2013 (2013-11-27)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$5.2 million

Oldboy is a 2013 American neo-noir action thriller film directed by Spike Lee, written by Mark Protosevich, and starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley. It is a remake of the 2003 South Korean film of the same name. It follows a man (Brolin) who searches for his captors after being mysteriously imprisoned for twenty years.

Oldboy was released theatrically in the United States on November 27, 2013, by FilmDistrict. It received mixed reception, with many critics deeming it inferior to the original, and was a box office bomb.


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 awakes, he finds himself locked within a hotel room. His unseen captors provide him with food, alcohol and hygiene items, but do not explain why he is captive. He sees a news report that says his ex-wife Donna was raped and murdered and that he is the prime suspect, and that their infant daughter Mia was adopted.

Over the next 20 years, he quits drinking and works himself into shape, intent on escaping and getting revenge. He compiles a list of all those who would 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 cell phone and several thousand dollars. He sees the woman with the yellow umbrella and gives chase, but ends up running into Marie Sebastian, a nurse who offers to help him. He refuses but takes her business card. He goes to his bar-owner friend Chucky, and explains what has transpired. While there, Joe gets a call on the cell phone from a man calling himself the Stranger, mocking him. Joe spends a great deal of effort to determine if any of the men on his list are the Stranger, but they all prove to be innocent. He collapses from dehydration, and Chucky calls Marie to help. While Joe recovers, Marie is taken emotionally by Joe's letters to Mia, and offers to help him further. She helps him identify the Chinese restaurant where some of his food came from while he was imprisoned.

Joe follows a delivery from the restaurant to the warehouse where he was imprisoned, and meets Chaney, its owner, whom Joe tortures into confessing that the Stranger arranged for his imprisonment. On his return to Chucky's bar, Joe finds the Stranger there with the woman with the yellow umbrella, his bodyguard Haeng-Bok. The Stranger tells Joe they have kidnapped Mia. He says that if Joe can determine the Stranger's identity within 46 hours, he'll free Mia, give Joe $20 million in diamonds and proof of his innocence in Donna's murder, and that he will 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 tells him a large sum of cash has just been left on the doorstep in exchange for Joe's release. They let Joe go.

Marie identifies the Stranger's ringtone as the anthem of Evergreen Academy, where Joe attended. They learn that many years prior, the school was bought by an anonymous corporation and closed. They break into its office and look through yearbooks. Joe recognizes one student, Adrian Doyle Pryce, and recalls tormenting his sister, Amanda, for her promiscuity, which led to the revelation that their father, Arthur, had incestuous relations with them both. As a result, Arthur moved them to Luxembourg, but later murdered his wife and Amanda, severely wounded Adrian, then committed suicide.

Joe calls Chucky with the name, and Chucky confirms Joe's guess that the Stranger is Adrian. However, when Chucky insults Amanda, Adrian, who is listening on a cloned cell phone, kills him before Joe can arrive. Joe hides Marie in a hotel for her safety, where they have sex, unaware Adrian is watching them through hidden cameras.

Joe goes to Adrian's penthouse, defeats and kills Haeng-Bok, and confronts Adrian. Adrian congratulates him, giving him the diamonds and escorting him to where Mia is. However, Adrian asks Joe to think why he had let Joe go in the first place, and shows that the interview with Mia was all a set-up, and "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 (2003) previously had director Justin Lin attached, with Ernesto M. Foronda and Fabian Marquez writing the screenplay after previously collaborating with Lin on Better Luck Tomorrow (2002).[3][4] In November 2008, DreamWorks Pictures and Universal Pictures were securing the rights to the remake, producing and distributing respectively, which Will Smith had expressed interest in starring, with Steven Spielberg as director.[5] Mark Protosevich was in talks to write the script, although the acquisition to the remake rights were not finalized.[6] Smith later clarified that Spielberg would not be remaking the film, instead adapting the Old Boy manga itself,[7] which is considerably different from the original film.[8] In June 2009, the manga's publisher launched a lawsuit against the Korean film's producers for giving the film rights to Spielberg without their permission.[9] Later in November 2009, it was reported that DreamWorks, Spielberg, and Smith had stepped back from the project.[10] The producing team announced on November 2009 that the project was dead.[11]

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.[12] 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,[13] but it was later reported that Colin Firth had been offered the role.[14] Firth later passed on the role,[15] which was later offered to Clive Owen.[16] In May 2012, Deadline Hollywood reported that Sharlto Copley had officially been cast as the villain Adrian Pryce.[17] Elizabeth Olsen,[18] Samuel L. Jackson[19] and Nate Parker[20] were all later announced to have joined the cast. Parker was later replaced by James Ransone, due to a scheduling conflict.[21] The film marked Jackson's first time working with director Lee since 1991's Jungle Fever.

Principal photography began in October 2012.[22]

Final cut editing[edit]

Spike Lee's version was 140 minutes long, but the producers heavily re-edited the film to 105 minutes[23][24] (re-edits by producers also included the "one-shot hammer" scene[25]); Lee and Josh Brolin were unhappy with it.[24] Lee even removed his trademark "A Spike Lee Joint" credit for a more impersonal "A Spike Lee Film" during the editing process.[24] 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.[26] Later he said: "I thought Spike’s cut was actually way better than the studio’s, but the studio took it away and I thought they’d cut it very poorly and I thought it ended up having the opposite effect. That’s what happens when you start cutting to this idea of pandering for an audience, and how testing can bite you in the ass. You don’t know what the audience is going to want."[27]



Oldboy was released theatrically in the United States on November 23, 2013, by FilmDistrict.[28] It was the last film to be distributed by the company, before Focus Features absorbed the company in October 2013.[29]

The film grossed $885,000 in its first five days, one of the weakest Thanksgiving openings of all time, according to Variety.[30] It opened in 18th place at the box office and finished with a worldwide gross of $5.2 million.[31][32]

Home media[edit]

The film was released in the United States on DVD and Blu-ray on March 4, 2014, by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.[33]

Critical reception[edit]

Oldboy received negative reviews from critics.[34][35] IndieWire reported that the film garnered a "C-" rating on the A+ to F scale as evaluated by critics, who stated that it "doesn't measure up" to the original film.[36] On Rotten Tomatoes, 39% of 151 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.1/10. 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."[37] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[38]

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."[39] 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".[40]

In a more positive review, 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."[41]

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."[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Misspelled as Old Boy in the opening credits. Additionally, the South Korean film is based on the Japanese manga Old Boy by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi


  1. ^ "OLD BOY (18)". Universal Studios. British Board of Film Classification. November 15, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  2. ^ "2013 Feature Film Study" (PDF). FilmL.A. Feature Film Study. May 2014. p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 4, 2017. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  3. ^ "Justin Lin Talks 'Fast & Furious 4' Gig and 'Oldboy' Departure". JustPressPlay.net. Archived from the original on November 9, 2007.
  4. ^ Ernesto M. Foronda; Fabian Marquez (April 21, 2005). "Oldboy" (PDF). Retrieved March 18, 2022.
  5. ^ Michael Fleming (November 6, 2008). "Spielberg, Smith in talks for 'Oldboy'". Variety. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  6. ^ Jay A. Fernandez; Steven Zeitchik (November 19, 2008). "DreamWorks sets up 'Old Boy' club". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  7. ^ Brian C. Gibson (November 21, 2008). "Will Smith Says Oldboy Won't be Adaptation of Chan-wook Park's Film". Film School Rejects. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2008.
  8. ^ Elisabeth Rappe (November 21, 2008). "Will Smith Definitely Starring In 'Oldboy,' Says Steven Spielberg Film Won't Be A Remake". MTV. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  9. ^ "Old Boy Publisher Sues Korean Studio Over U.S. Film Rights". Anime News Network. June 17, 2009. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  10. ^ "Will Smith & Steven Spielberg's Old Boy DEAD!". Latino Review. November 9, 2009. Archived from the original on September 10, 2011. Retrieved November 9, 2009.
  11. ^ "Oldboy Remake Not Proceeding After All". DreadCentral. November 10, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  12. ^ "Spike Lee Confirmed to Direct 'Oldboy'". /Film. July 11, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  13. ^ Fleming, Mike (August 29, 2011). "Josh Brolin To Star In Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' Redo For Mandate". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  14. ^ Brown, Todd (November 11, 2011). "Breaking: Colin Firth Offered Villain Role In Oldboy". ScreenAnarchy. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  15. ^ Brown, Todd (December 8, 2011). "Colin Firth Turns Down Spike Lee's Oldboy". ScreenAnarchy. Archived from the original on September 21, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  16. ^ Brown, Todd (December 16, 2011). "Breaking: Clive Owen Offered Villain Role In Spike Lee's Oldboy". ScreenAnarchy. Archived from the original on September 9, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  17. ^ "Sharlto Copley Cast in 'Open Grave,' Confirmed For Spike Lee's 'Oldboy'". Deadline Hollywood. May 1, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  18. ^ Rosen, Christopher (September 11, 2012). "Elizabeth Olsen: 'Oldboy' Role Is 'Really Exciting'". HuffPost. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  19. ^ "Samuel L. Jackson Joins Oldboy". IGN. August 19, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  20. ^ Brian Gallagher (September 4, 2012). "Oldboy Lands Nate Parker". MovieWeb. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  21. ^ "James Ransone Replaces Nate Parker in Oldboy". ComingSoon.net. October 16, 2012. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  22. ^ "Production Starts For Spike Lee's 'Oldboy'; What Scene Is Being Shot In These On-set Photos?". Shadow and Act. October 4, 2012. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ a b c Maane Khatchatourian. "'Oldboy' Will Likely Be Trampled By New Releases in Thanksgiving Rush". Variety. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  25. ^ "Spike Lee Says The Studio Re-Edited The One-Shot Hammer Scene In 'Oldboy' Plus Listen To 3 Tracks From The Score". Indiewire. November 25, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  26. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (November 1, 2013). "Josh Brolin resists 'man's man' label, but here's 'Oldboy,' 'Labor Day'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  27. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (March 31, 2023). "Josh Brolin on Owing 'Jonah Hex' Co-Stars an Apology and Finding His 'Almost Famous' Audition Tape". Variety. Retrieved February 26, 2024.
  28. ^ "Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' Out Next October". ComingSoon.net. October 19, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  29. ^ "Focus Features Hires Peter Schlessel to Replace James Schamus as CEO". October 2, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  30. ^ "Thanksgiving Box Office: 'Catching Fire,' 'Frozen' Serve Up Holiday Records". Variety.
  31. ^ "Oldboy (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  32. ^ "Oldboy remake bombs, Hunger Games & Frozen soar". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  33. ^ "Oldboy (2013)". DVD's Release Dates. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  34. ^ Nordine, Michael (February 9, 2015). "'Da Sweet Blood of Jesus' Is Spike Lee at His Craziest, and It's Worth Seeing". Vice. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  35. ^ "Spike Lee: Oldboy, new man? | Sight & Sound". British Film Institute. April 15, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  36. ^ Greene, Steve (November 27, 2013). "Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' Doesn't Measure Up to Park Chan-wook's". IndieWire. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  37. ^ "Oldboy (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  38. ^ "Oldboy". Metacritic. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  39. ^ "Oldboy". Variety. November 26, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  40. ^ "Oldboy: Spike Lee's remake lacks a plausible motive". Chicago Tribune. November 26, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  41. ^ "Oldboy". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  42. ^ "Review: Spike Lee's Bloody, Eccentric 'Oldboy' Remake Is His Most Entertaining Movie Since 'Inside Man'". Indiewire. November 26, 2013. Retrieved May 12, 2017.

External links[edit]