Though he’s been as prolific as ever over the last seven years (from Katrina and Michael Jackson docs to 2012 religious drama Red Hook Summer), Oldboy marks Spike Lee’s first UK cinema release since 2006’s Inside Man.
Sadly, this remake of Park Chan-wook’s revered revenger isn’t the comeback fans might’ve hoped for. If Oldboy 2.0 teaches us anything, it’s that hyper-stylised violence doesn’t come as naturally to the Brooklynite as his South Korean counterpart.
Where Park brought a deranged glee to the hammer blows and head shots, Lee’s take is notably grimmer. What’s more, there’s little in the way of outlandishness to offset the brutality. Never willing to follow its predecessor into the realms of delirium, this Oldboy becomes an onerous slog, only slightly enlivened by its twist ending.
To its credit, Spike Lee’s remake isn’t a slavish imitation. On the other hand, its grit is a grey substitute for the original’s vision and verve. Disappointing.