The Hollywood remake juggernaut just won't stop!
Oldboy Blu-ray Review
The latest remake victim is Oldboy, a powerful, intoxicating and relentlessly oppressive Korean thriller which is, for those who have seen it, largely regarded as a masterpiece. There was no need to remake it.When unpredictable filmmaker Spike Lee's name got attached to the project a spark of hope appeared on the horizon, but unfortunately he’s way out of his depth. His take on the classic - at least in its purportedly heavily-edited theatrical format - is just another pointless by-the-numbers remake which adds nothing to the material and which simply does not have any heart to it. Of course it's us, the moviegoers, who were always going to be in the lose-lose situation: had this movie remained in the hands of Steven Spielberg and Will Smith, it would have almost certainly been tailored for a PG-13 rating, softened in tone and content, stripped of sex and violence, and of its dark twist ending. Lee's version remains dark and adult, with plenty of gratuitous violence, and with the controversial twist intact, but it somehow lacks any kind of soul. Previously we were right there alongside the 'hero', following his relentless, unflinching journey of bloody revenge.Now it's as if we're just going through the motions. Sure, Lee still retains the seminal hammer sequence, and even attempts to transform the side-scrolling platform-game-style action scene into a three-dimensional, multi-level affair, but it simply lacks the same visceral punch. Hell, even the shock ending has had its sting diluted, delivered for effect, rather than with effect. Unfortunately the blame is going to go squarely on Spike Lee's shoulders, and his outspoken, antagonistic manner probably won't help, but the reality is that this is a lesson that the studios need to learn: if you're going to get a director like Spike Lee to do a US remake of a classic foreign film then allow him the room to turn in whatever he sees fit, rather than try and get him to conform to your misguided ideals. First and foremost, though, don't remake great films in the first place!.
Oldboy Blu-ray Picture QualityThere might be little new, or little worthy about the main movie itself, but the punchy 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation for this remake looks largely excellent, rendering the variable stylistic content with calm precision as it bounces through the decades, fusing flashbacks into the centre shot and old home videos into window reflections. Detail stands up throughout the piece, bringing depth to the longer shots and excellent texturing with the close-ups and facial observations, allowing for superior skin layering, clothing weaves and background tweaks.
Oldboy’s narrative might be old news, but the new version certainly looks pretty impressive.
The gritty first act soon resolves into a sharper modern day representation, which only dips into that same thicker, more stylised look for a couple of sequences – like that hammer fight and some moments towards the end of the piece – over the rest of the proceedings.
The colours scheme is broad and vibrant, picking up on strong tones and allowing them to blast through a heavily saturated world of high contrast imagery. Bright blues, lush greens, and deep reds pepper the shots, and strong blacks round out the range of colours, with shadow detail largely intact and no invasive signs of digital defects – banding, blocking, excessive DNR application or edge enhancement – to ruin your day. At the end of the day, aside from a smidge of softness, this is an excellent presentation that makes this unnecessary remake certainly look new.
Oldboy Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is almost as impressive as the video, providing potent support that does not lack in the precision department either. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, rising above the rest of the proceedings to dominate the fronts and centre channels wherever necessary, whilst the score is infused into the track in a such a way as to remain a subtle, passive enhancement that is far from invasive.
Potent and precise, the accompanying audio track also impresses.
Effects are myriad – from punches to hammer blows; from knife snicks to gunshots – but, whilst the louder moments offer up some sonic punch and resounding impact; whilst the surrounds tracks gets some welcome dynamic breadth and the LFE channel gets plenty of opportunity to offer its input, the atmospheric side of things is generally more impressive. Rainfall surrounds your living room; the streets come alive, and the ‘hotel’ prison cell feels suitably claustrophobic, with ambient touches standing out.
Oldboy Blu-ray ExtrasAlthough there's no way that the 17-minute Making-Of and the 12 minutes of Deleted Scenes that adorned the US counterpart would have made up for the deficiencies in the movie itself, I'm sure fans would have gotten a kick out of the Extended Ramp Fight at the very least. Instead of that, all that remains on this UK version are a couple of 2-minute promo pieces that are utterly worthless.
Is Oldboy Blu-ray Worth BuyingAcclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee fails to bring anything new to the table in this, yet another, unnecessary remake. Whilst all of the key elements are in place, his by-the-numbers reworking is devoid of the same strength and soul as the original, with characters that you're simply not invested in, and shocks and twists that lack the same impact.
You've heard it before but I can't stress it enough yet again: save your money and just rewatch the original.
This Region Free UK release offers up the same excellent video and audio as the US counterpart, but lacks all of its - admittedly still meagre - extras, leaving an import preferable for fans of the film who aren't region restricted.
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