Disclaimer: In my opinion, Park Chan-Wook's "Old Boy" is one of the best movies of this generation. I have watched it once in the cinema, once on an airplane and once at home going through his The Vengeance Trilogy. I still get chills and flashbacks whenever I hear the first movement of Vivaldi's 4 Seasons: Winter.
I applaud Spike Lee for adapting, rather than re-creating, this brilliant movie. However, this American end product though competent, lacked the heart and soul, and undeniable psychological tension and thrills that was so prevalent in Park's Grand Prix-winning film. Ignoring the fact that the basic storyline is the same, the biggest stumbling block here are the characterisations of the leads. All three of them. Josh Brolin: we spent much time in the beginning but his transformation lacked the intensity and instability that Choi Min-Sik's Oh Dae-Soo had which illuminated the screen. We do not get a sense of Brolin losing his humanity nor regaining it. Neither do we feel that he is willing to lose it all again, and his humility, towards the end. Growls and gutteral sounds do not a damaged person make. Elizabeth Olsen (aka Scarlet Witch) is an interesting actress but her character's motivations for helping out Brolin were poorly defined. Also, she lacked that vulnerability and icy-strong fragility that would have enhanced the finale. Her chemistry with Brolin seemed forced and scripted, and more script necessity rather than organic which, again, lessened the emotional impact of the ending. It seemed that Lee and scriptwriter Mark Protosevich did more things wrong than right in translating the film to Hollywood. However, one thing they got right was the casting of the anatagonist. Sharlto Copley, may not be as innocuously evil as pretty boy Yoo Ji-Tae, but he brought his own crazy eyes and psycho posturing to the role. Although his backstory is much less convincing here and again, belittle the impact of his motivations and methods. Lee did add some throwbacks and homages to Park's movie, but thankfully he did not try to re-create shot for shot. The infamous corridor brawl was definitely reworked here and though a long shot was used, Lee's choice to segregate the camera from the action made the scene less urgent and less dangerous; the torture scene had no dental involvement but was initially frightening but then lamed out. No octopus here, but Lee did create a fantastically gross out scene here involving a white mouse instead. The envelop was not pushed here and it's such a waste for the material is so rich to bring to a wider audience. Instead, we are left with a sanitised version that lacked the psychological tension and drama of the original.