‘Oldboy’ to Rip the Teeth Out of America – Whether You Like It or Not

Call me a heretic, but when given the opportunity to watch the original foreign version of a film or the American remake, I’ll usually pick the remake – unless it’s a remake of a Japanese horror movie or a European comedy. It’s not that I don’t like foreign films. I simply prefer the polished, refined versions that American filmmakers tend to release. I enjoy ‘Let Me In‘, ‘Vanilla Sky’ and ‘The Departed‘ more than their original predecessors. I also believe that an Americanized ‘Oldboy‘ is a great idea. And now it’s finally happening.

Shortly after moving to Utah, ‘Oldboy’ was the very first film I saw at the Sundance Film Festival. Because of that, I have a certain love for the movie. Not only is it a beloved “first” for me, but it’s one hell of an awesome movie.

A lot of online news posts in 2008 and 2009 talked about the now-aborted remake project that Steven Spielberg was set to direct and Will Smith set to star in. Instead of being a remake of the 2003 South Korean film, the Spielberg/Smith version was rumored to follow the incest-less source material, a manga of the same name. When DreamWorks and Mandate were unable to settle their creative differences, DreamWorks walked and project fell dead – until now.

It was announced last week that Mandate is moving the project forward with newly-attached director Spike Lee at the helm. While I’ve enjoyed Lee’s ‘Malcolm X’, ‘Do the Right Thing‘, ’25th Hour’, ‘Inside Man‘ and ‘When the Levees Broke’, I’m leery of how the project will fare in his hands. Considering how much the subject of racial tension plays out in each of his films, I can only imagine what twists and turns will replace the incest of the original.

Now that Lee is attached to direct, it’s highly unlikely that Will Smith will remain as the lead actor, due to some bad blood in their histories. Back in 2001, Lee publicly bashed Smith for his role as the stereotypical “Super-Duper Magical Negro” in ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’.

Whether you like it or not, ‘Oldboy’ is being remade. Although I’m skeptical of how it will turn out, casting will either solidify or calm my fears. If strong actors with solid credits are cast, then I truly believe the film can be pulled off successfully. But if the cast consists of no-names and will-work-for-food actors, it may be a train wreck.

With Will Smith unlikely to return, who do think should fill the role?

[Via Screen Rant]


  1. Every time I hear something about the Oldboy remake, it sounds like a bad joke. Spielberg, Will Smith, Spike Lee? Seriously? Maybe next they should remake Salo with Zach Efron, Seltzer & Friedberg could direct! Just change the name to “Snuff Film” and proceed to make poop jokes! In 3D! YAY AMERICA!

  2. I don’t see any reason why Spike Lee couldn’t do a good job with this. Politics and ego aside, he’s a talented filmmaker who has directed a number of very good to great movies. With Inside Man, he also proved that he can play nice with the mainstream when he wants to.

    He’s certainly better suited to this than Spielberg. I think he’s an interesting choice.

    • Better suited than your dad, sure, I’ll give you that, but still an odd choice. To be fair I don’t think I’d be satisfied with any choice, as I don’t feel this should be remade at all. At the very least Spike will do something radically different with the material, which is I suppose the best one could ask for.

  3. as much as i hate that he crow barred his children into music and t.v. , i’m sure that will smith would do fine in a film like this if the director is right. the guy that did michael clayton. he would be great for this. 🙂

  4. Jane Morgan

    Look at that banner photo. Which Hollywood actor could even come close to pulling off that kind of fucked up intensity?

    Jack Nicholson
    Philip Seymour Hoffman
    Daniel Day-Lewis
    Anthony Hopkins
    Ed Harris
    Brad Pitt
    Mel Gibson
    Viggo Mortensen
    Sean Penn
    Willem Dafoe
    Benicio Del Toro

    Or will Spike Lee go straight to Samuel L. Jackson?

  5. Brian H

    I was disappointed with the Stieg Larsson adaptations. I felt like the movies failed to realize the Blomkvist character and the Millennium masthead, etc. And although I think it would be better suited as an HBO miniseries rather than a movie adaptation, it will be interesting to see another attempt at it.

    In general though, American versions of recent foreign movies seem about as inspired as “The Green Lantern.” They come off as compulsory, as in “we have a good movie, but we to make it more accessible to Americans.” This in turn pressures the creative team (especially the director) to make the story easier to understand, but at the same time to add something to add an element to the story. (a twist!)

    I don’t think “Oldboy” needs an twists added to it.

    Having Will Smith attached was/is not a good thing. I have already seen Will Smith stink up “I, Robot,” and “I am Legend.”

    Now if we were talking the Coen brothers and a cast like No Country for Old Men, then the project would have some promise.

  6. PaulB

    Spike might be able to but from as someone who has shown simliar catagory of capability, I think I’d like to see Fincher do it.
    Viggo is the right general age and has the ability to pull off the character and physicality.
    Regardless, there is little likelyhood that a US version would reach the level of f’d-up-ness that is needed to do that movie right.

  7. Col.Mayhem

    The main reason I enjoy Korean vengeance flicks is because they go where American theaters won’t, which is exactly why the films are so good; the topics approached often leave the viewer eerily uncomfortable. It’s not violence that gets a rise anymore, that’s fun in these flicks, but the rather sick psychology rooted in the characters and the situations they’re placed in.

    The general American comfort zone appears to be a hard limit in the minds of Hollywood execs.

    Speaking of Oldboy, himself, I Saw the Devil comes to mind. Truly fun, creepy, and totally discomforting. It, too, would never make the conversion to our shores.