By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Spike Lee's solid, literal remake is extremely violent.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is essentially a cruel revenge tale, with bad behavior met by more bad behavior.
Positive Role Models
The main character is single-minded and bent on revenge, inflicting great violence on anyone that gets in his way. He does perform one noble deed at the end, but only after it's too late. None of the characters is worth emulating in any way.
Violence & Scariness
The character is abducted and imprisoned for 20 years. He bashes his head against the wall and tries to kill himself. Upon his release he beats up dozens of men, including some innocent bystanders. He bashes people in the head with a hammer, and gets a knife stuck in his back. Characters are tied down and tortured. In a flashback, a father kills his entire family, and himself, with a shotgun. Lots of blood is shown. We also see a bloody suicide. There's an attempted rape.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's a graphic sex scene with female toplessness and male and female backsides shown. The scene takes on a greater, and more disturbing resonance after the big reveal at the end. Another sex scene is in the dark, but you can hear sounds. The character is shown masturbating under a pillow while watching a workout show on TV. Incest is part of the plot. In an early scene, the character attempts and fails to seduce a woman during a business meeting.
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Language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "dick," and "piss," plus "Jesus H. Christ" and "Goddamn."
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Products & Purchases
Apple iPhones are shown. Google searches are important to the plot.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character starts the movie as a hardcore alcoholic, pouring vodka in a paper cup to make it look like he's drinking soda. He's shown raging drunk one night, screaming on the streets and searching for more booze. (He's also shown smoking a cigarette.) During his imprisonment, he's given a bottle of vodka a day, which he guzzles down greedily. Eventually he stops drinking through hard work and persistence. An old friend of his is also a strong drinker, seen with a glass of whisky at all times. Another character is said to be a former drug user, but recovered.
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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 ...
Families can talk about the movie's extreme violence. What is the mood of it? How does watching it affect you?
Why is a movie like this appealing? How does the movie compare to the Korean version? Why do you think Spike Lee chose to remake it?
- In theaters: November 27, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: March 4, 2014
- Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley
- Director: Spike Lee
- Inclusion Information: Black directors
- 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: April 2, 2023
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