Film News: Josh Brolin Signs on For Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy’ Remake

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CHICAGO – If a remake of the 2003 Korean film “Oldboy” didn’t look like it was going to happen, it sure does now. After Spike Lee had signed on to direct the Americanized remake a few weeks ago, just yesterday Empire reported that Josh Brolin has signed on to play the lead character.

The original “Oldboy,” one of the biggest films to come out of Korea in the last ten years, is the story of Dae-su (the part Brolin will play), a man who is kidnapped on his daughter’s birthday and held captive for fifteen years. Upon his release, he seeks revenge on his captor and everyone else involved in the time and family he lost while being held. After being released he befriends a female chef who helps him along his path to finding the man who took fifteen years away from him.

The original “Oldboy” is the second film in a trilogy of vengeance films from Korean director Park Chan-wook (“Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Lady Vengeance” make up the rest of the trilogy). An “Oldboy” remake has been in the works for some time, originally bought by Steven Spielberg, who was going to direct with Will Smith as the lead at one point.

Unfortunately for die hard “Oldboy” fans, rumor going around is that the remake will resemble what “The Departed” did for “Infernal Affairs;” that is the core story will remain the same, but around a quarter of the film’s narrative will be changed to appeal to American audiences. A.V. Club probably stated it best without giving anything away when they said the new film would “scrub out some of the more infamously uncomfortable, salacious elements in order to make it more palatable to American audiences. So in other words, no more fried dumplings. American audiences just aren’t ready for all the fried dumplings.

The Brolin casting is just the first of many important characters for the new “Oldboy,” and rumors have surfaced that say Christian Bale may sign on as the villain in the Spike Lee remake. Keep posted to for updates on the film’s casting as the news comes in.

Contributing Writer

AYa's picture


Nonononnononononooooooooo! WHY in the the world would you even consider doing a remake of Oldboy, especially an American remake??? American remakes of Asian films are horrid. Once it touches an American directors hands, it just fails! Make it more “palatable” to Americans? Not one scene in that movie needs to be changed. How come America can show violent films like Hills have Eyes and Hostel, sexually charged t.v shows,the craziness that’s floating around on MTV and VH1 where everybody sleeps with everybody and their mother plus anything Seth McFarland puts out but they don’t think Americans are “ready” for all that Oldboy had to offer? Oh, come on.

I like Spike’s film’s and all but Oldboy is something that just shouldn’t be touched. But I might actually see it just to see how he’s going to pull this off and also to see if Spike’s gonna randomly pop up as a taxi driver or something.

Tim Martens's picture

Two ways to look at it

AYa, I also understand the frustration with the remake. “Oldboy” happens to be one of my favorite films of all time and something I wish would not be touched. The film is aesthetically interesting with the sets, locations, and the food such as the dumplings and the squid. The narrative of vengeance, one that is also brilliant in Park Chan-wook’s “Mr. Vengeance” and “Lady Vengeance,” has so many different layers in “Oldboy” and treads so many fine lines. I still consider the fight Dae-su has in the long hallway with the hammer to be one of the best I have seen in film, both for the excitement and choreography, but also for how raw the fight is (specifically, moments like tripping on a broken board that give a sense of reality and reminds us of the long take of action we have seen). Also, the final reveal was one of the most unexpected I have ever seen and one that really stuck with me.

However, the other thing we must always look at is the money. Hollywood is always looking for stories and films that they can make a profit on and the Korean film world offers films that transfer to American storytelling rather easily. Korean cinema is not afraid to display (as to not give it away I will keep out the twist of “Oldboy”) what is revealed at the end of “Oldboy.” While the MTV generation still sees a lot on television and in films, the revelation in “Oldboy” is a rather taboo subject, at least in the manner that it is handled in that specific film. Unfortunately, eve though Spike Lee and Josh Brolin are very talented, taking out that ending would ruin a remake for me. Not that the film can’t be good, but as a remake it will be hard to see.

I hate the idea that this is being remade too, but take comfort knowing you won’t be the only one leaving the theater after seeing the remake and being called a hipster for saying “the original is much better.” Of course, that is speculation, but it would take a lot for me to enjoy the remake more.

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