Oldboy (2013 film)

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Oldboy 2013 film poster.jpg
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
Box office$5.2 million

Oldboy is a 2013 American neo-noir action thriller film directed by Spike Lee and written by Mark Protosevich. It is a remake, or as labeled by Lee a "reinterpretation", of Park Chan-wook's 2003 South Korean film of the same name (which in turn is based on the Japanese manga Old Boy), and follows a man who is mysteriously imprisoned for twenty years, and searches for his captors after he is suddenly released. It stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley.

Oldboy was released in the United States on November 27, 2013, by FilmDistrict. It received a mixed reception from critics, with many finding the film inferior to the classic.


In 1993, alcoholic advertising executive Joe Doucett (Brolin) gets drunk after losing a major account because he insulted his client’s girlfriend. Before he passes out, he sees a woman with a yellow umbrella selling souvenirs on the street. When he wakes up, he finds himself locked in what appears to be 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 has been raped and murdered and that he is the prime suspect. Their 3-year-old daughter Mia was adopted through the welfare system and is now a cello prodigy.

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 be given to Mia. One day he sees a TV interview of Mia, who says she would forgive her father if she ever saw him.

Joe is drugged shortly thereafter. When he wakes up he is outside in a trunk in a field, with a cell phone and a small amount of money. He spots the woman with the yellow umbrella and runs after her; he loses her but encounters Marie Sebastian (Olsen), a nurse who offers to help. He refuses the help, but takes her business card. Joe goes to his friend Chucky's (Imperioli) bar and explains what has happened to him. Joe receives a call on his cell phone from a man calling himself the "Stranger", who mocks him. After failing to identify the caller, Joe collapses from dehydration, and Chucky calls Marie to help. While he recovers, Marie is moved emotionally by Joe's letters to Mia and offers to help him further. She helps him identify a Chinese restaurant which supplied his food while he was held captive.

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

Joe learns that Chaney and his men are seeking revenge by attacking Marie. After racing to her house, he is captured by Chaney. Just as Chaney is about to cut and torture him, the Stranger calls Chaney and offers to pay him for Joe's release. Chaney releases Joe and Marie. Using a music recognition app on her phone, Marie determines that the ringtone from the Stranger's call is the theme song of Evergreen Academy, which Joe had attended, but is now closed and shuttered.

Marie visits the school headmistress's home; Joe sneaks in a back door and finds his yearbook where he recognizes a student, Adrian Doyle Pryce. Joe passes the name to Chucky then hides Marie in a hotel for her safety. There they have passionate sex, unaware that Adrian is watching through hidden cameras. Chucky does some internet sleuthing and leaves a message for Joe revealing that everything has been about Adrian's sister Amanda. Adrian intercepts and deletes the message before Joe hears it, and because Chucky insulted Adrian's sister, he garrotes Chucky to death with piano wire. Marie and Joe enter the Evergreen Academy grounds, and find the school's records regarding Adrian and Amanda. Joe recalls bullying Amanda, and seeing Amanda having sex with an older man, revealed to be her own father, in the greenhouse. Adrian's father moved the Pryce family to Luxembourg, where he later murdered his wife and Amanda, attempted to murder Adrian, and committed suicide. Back at the car, they find a package with Chucky's tongue inside. Joe makes Marie promise to let him go after Adrian alone.

Joe goes to Adrian's penthouse, kills Haeng-bok by slitting her throat, and confronts Adrian. He tells Adrian what he found out about Amanda and Adrian's father. Adrian congratulates him for answering the two questions correctly. Adrian, who has convinced himself that his father's abuse was an expression of love, blames the destruction of his family on Joe, who revealed their secret by telling everyone at Evergreen what he saw in the greenhouse. Adrian gives him the diamonds and evidence, and escorts him to sets used to fabricate the media watched by Joe in the warehouse. Adrian taunts Joe by questioning why he was released at all; his tormentor shows that the interview with "Mia" was a setup; the girl, now a woman, was a paid actress. Adrian reveals that Marie is really Joe's own daughter and that he wanted Joe to know what it felt like to lose everything. Adrian then commits suicide, shooting himself in the mouth.

Horrified, Joe writes Marie a letter saying they can never see each other again. He 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).[2][3] 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.[4] Mark Protosevich was in talks to write the script, although the acquisition to the remake rights were not finalized.[5] Smith later clarified that Spielberg would not be remaking the film: he would be adapting the manga itself,[6] which is considerably different from the film.[7] 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.[8] Later in November 2009, it was reported that DreamWorks, Spielberg and Smith had stepped back from the project.[9] The producing team announced on November 2009 that the project was dead.[10]

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.[11] 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,[12] but it was later reported that Colin Firth had been offered the role.[13] Firth later passed on the role,[14] which was later offered to Clive Owen.[15] In May 2012, Deadline reported that Sharlto Copley had officially been cast as the villain Adrian Pryce.[16] Elizabeth Olsen,[17] Samuel L. Jackson[18] and Nate Parker[19] were all later announced to have joined the cast. Parker was later replaced by James Ransone, due to a scheduling conflict.[20] The film marked Jackson's first time working with director Lee since 1991's Jungle Fever.

Principal photography began in October 2012.[21]

Final cut editing[edit]

Spike Lee's version was 140 minutes long, but the producers heavily re-edited the film to 105 minutes[22][23] (re-edits by producers also included the "one-shot hammer" scene[24]); Lee and Josh Brolin were unhappy with it.[23] Lee even removed his trademark "A Spike Lee Joint" credit for a more impersonal "A Spike Lee Film" during the editing process.[23] 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.[25]


Oldboy was released theatrically in the United States on November 23, 2013, by FilmDistrict.[26] It was the last film to be distributed by the company, before Focus Features absorbed the company in October 2013.[27]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 39% based on 151 reviews, 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."[28] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[29]

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."[30]

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."[31] 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".[32]

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."[33]

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.[34] 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.[35][36]

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. ^ "Justin Lin Talks 'Fast & Furious 4' Gig and 'Oldboy' Departure". JustPressPlay.net. Archived from the original on November 9, 2007.
  3. ^ Ernesto M. Foronda; Fabian Marquez (April 21, 2005). "Oldboy" (PDF). Retrieved March 18, 2022.
  4. ^ Michael Fleming (November 6, 2008). "Spielberg, Smith in talks for 'Oldboy'". Variety. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  5. ^ Jay A. Fernandez; Steven Zeitchik (November 19, 2008). "DreamWorks sets up 'Old Boy' club". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Old Boy Publisher Sues Korean Studio Over U.S. Film Rights". Anime News Network. June 17, 2009. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  9. ^ "Will Smith & Steven Spielberg's Old Boy DEAD!". Latino Review. November 9, 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2009.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Oldboy Remake Not Proceeding After All". DreadCentral. November 10, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  11. ^ "Spike Lee Confirmed to Direct 'Oldboy'". /Film. July 11, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  12. ^ Fleming, Mike (August 29, 2011). "Josh Brolin To Star In Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' Redo For Mandate". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "Sharlto Copley Cast in 'Open Grave,' Confirmed For Spike Lee's 'Oldboy'". Deadline Hollywood. May 1, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  17. ^ Rosen, Christopher (September 11, 2012). "Elizabeth Olsen: 'Oldboy' Role Is 'Really Exciting'". HuffPost. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  18. ^ "Samuel L. Jackson Joins Oldboy". IGN. August 19, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  19. ^ Brian Gallagher (September 4, 2012). "Oldboy Lands Nate Parker". MovieWeb. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  20. ^ "James Ransone Replaces Nate Parker in Oldboy". ComingSoon.net. October 16, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ a b c Maane Khatchatourian. "'Oldboy' Will Likely Be Trampled By New Releases in Thanksgiving Rush". Variety. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ "Spike Lee's 'Oldboy' Out Next October". ComingSoon.net. October 19, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  27. ^ "Focus Features Hires Peter Schlessel to Replace James Schamus as CEO". October 2, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  28. ^ "Oldboy (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  29. ^ "Oldboy". Metacritic. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  30. ^ "Oldboy". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  31. ^ "Oldboy". Variety. November 26, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  32. ^ "Oldboy: Spike Lee's remake lacks a plausible motive". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  33. ^ "Review: Spike Lee's Bloody, Eccentric 'Oldboy' Remake Is His Most Entertaining Movie Since 'Inside Man'". Indiewire. November 26, 2013. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  34. ^ "Thanksgiving Box Office: 'Catching Fire,' 'Frozen' Serve Up Holiday Records". Variety.
  35. ^ "Oldboy (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  36. ^ "Oldboy remake bombs, Hunger Games & Frozen soar". Den of Geek.

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