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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Oldboy is Spike Lee's remake of the extremely violent Korean movie of 2003. This retains the violence and deals with dark, subversive ideas as part of their plots. The character becomes a fighter, and beats up several people (sometimes using a hammer as a weapon). He's stabbed in the back. Characters are tortured, shot, and killed, and commit suicide, and there's an attempted rape. There's a graphic sex scene with female toplessness and male and female backsides shown, plus some other unsavory sexual elements central to the movie's story. Language is also strong, with many uses of "f--k" and "s--t." The main character begins the story as a hardcore alcoholic, though he recovers. Many savvy teens will already be aware of the original film, a much loved cult classic, and the new one does not change much of the basic plot. But many curious teens will want to see this new version, especially if they don't care for subtitles.
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What's the story?
After a bad business deal and a night of drinking, Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is abducted and locked in what looks like a hotel room. He's given meals, a TV to watch, and vodka to drink. A spray of gas puts him to sleep each night. One day he learns that he has been accused of killing his wife, and that his baby daughter has been adopted by a new family. He gives up drinking and begins exercising and learning how to fight. He starts working on letters to his daughter. After some 20 years, he is suddenly, unexpectedly released and left with a single mission: to figure out what happened to him and why. One thing is for sure. His new fighting skills will come in handy. Elizabeth Olsen co-stars as a helpful nurse.
Is it any good?
Spike Lee has never devoted his vicious talents to a pure exploitation film before. But his hard, brutal OLDBOY tackles that mind-bending, subversive story without flinching. On the other hand, Lee does do the American thing by adding a little more backstory, both to the lead character and to his situation; the Korean version leaves these things a little more opaque. Sometimes, this more literal approach opens up unwanted new questions about characters and motivations.
The main problem with OLDBOY, though, is that anyone familiar with the original story won't have much to be surprised about; Lee doesn't mess around with it much, and, indeed, it's so solid there's not much to mess around with. Josh Brolin gives an appealingly fearless, nearly lunatic performance and Elizabeth Olsen nicely compliments him. Samuel L. Jackson provides a loony, sinister presence, even if Sharlto Copley overacts.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: November 27, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: March 4, 2014
- Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley
- Director: Spike Lee
- Studio: FilmDistrict
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong brutal violence, disturbing images, some graphic sexuality and nudity, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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