Five things we learned from the new ‘Oldboy’ trailer

One of Asian cinema's finest works is getting a Hollywood makeover. This can't be a good thing. Or can it…?

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The first trailer for Spike Lee’s remake of Chan-wook Park's frenzied Korean revenge thriller ‘Oldboy’ has arrived. The tale of a man held prisoner without explanation for 20 years, the ultraviolent 2003 original was a key film in Korean cinema’s renaissance. Can Lee’s English-language remake make the same impact? After a look at the trailer, the prognosis is surprisingly good…

  • Spike Lee is going for a bold spin on a much-loved original

    If this early glimpse is anything to go by, Lee’s reimagining looks to add a layer of gloss to the nightmarish revenge classic. The director has drafted in Sean Bobbitt – cinematographer on ‘Shame’ and ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ – to add a splash of expressionistic beauty to Park’s monochromatic template. And in another departure, rumour has it that Lee has eschewed the original’s gut-churning octopus scene. Fans of the original will doubtless have something to say about that.

  • Josh Brolin might finally be an A-list actor

    Square-jawed tough guy Josh Brolin grabbed our attention in 2007's ‘No Country for Old Men’, but then it all went quiet. He walks and scowls dutifully here as the psychopathic wronged man Joe Doucett (equivalent of the original's Dae-su Oh) and even looks badass with his straggly prisoner's locks. Between this and preparation for a lead role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Inherent Vice’, then, Brolin's stock is heading through the roof.

  • The iconic hallway sequence has been given a ravishing makeover

    It looks like Lee hasn’t skimped on spectacle with his take on the original’s stand-out brawl: the eye-popping 'Matrix'-like melee in a narrow hallway that precedes the final showdown. So while action has never really been the director's thing, it's the most encouraging sign that ‘Oldboy’ may be more of a successful shotgun marriage between K-horror and Hollywood than the disappointing ‘Stoker’.

  • The supporting roles look juicy

    Expect an audience of pointing fingers when 'Oldboy' reaches cinemas – as he has on past projects, Lee has bulked out his cast with the cream of ‘The Wire’ and ‘The Sopranos’ alumni – Michael Imperioli, Lance Reddick and James Ransone among them. Elsewhere, ‘District 9’ star Sharlto Copley steps in to play the villain, while Samuel L. Jackson sports a class-of-'77 punk hairdo, as he sits and grimaces behind a shudder-inducing wall of CCTV monitors.

  • Lee’s happy to pay homage to the original (just not too much)

    Though there are nods to the film's Asian heritage, the newsy montage that contextualises the passing of Doucett's imprisonment makes it clear that this is an unapologetically American movie. Still, we’re excited to see what Lee can fashion from the new script; fingers crossed that it pulls off the same trick as ‘The Departed’, rather than pointlessly sullying the name of one of Korean cinema's greatest thrillers.

Spike Lee is going for a bold spin on a much-loved original

If this early glimpse is anything to go by, Lee’s reimagining looks to add a layer of gloss to the nightmarish revenge classic. The director has drafted in Sean Bobbitt – cinematographer on ‘Shame’ and ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ – to add a splash of expressionistic beauty to Park’s monochromatic template. And in another departure, rumour has it that Lee has eschewed the original’s gut-churning octopus scene. Fans of the original will doubtless have something to say about that.

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