Alternareview: Oldboy

About six months ago Deedgeek was playing Minecraft and, as he so often does, spilt his home made hot sauce on the Nerdarena laptop. At the time, despite all our pleas, he was sat in a field during a thunderstorm and was simultaneously hit by lightning. No science or mage can explain it but something about that exact bolt of lightning and his hot, hot juice created a new drive on the laptop which we call the Alterdrive. In it were manuscripts none of us had written, by writers we didn’t know. They described films and news stories that were like ours but different. “Rob Schneider Wins Best Actor For The King’s Speech” and “Why I Think Steve Martin Was An Inspired Choice For Wolverine”. This treasure trove of work provided us an insight into the sometimes wonderful, sometimes horrifying ‘What if’ of our neighbouring universe. We argued for months about whether or not to share these amazing finds. GMan argued that such knowledge, if revealed, could cause a panic but Captain Damaged insisted that the people needed to know. Finally after a lot of soul searching and many, many burritos we decide to release… The Altercles.

First up, the Will Smith/Steven Spielberg ‘Oldboy’

Movie Review: Incarcerated

What hurts Incarcerated most is the eleventh hour decision to hand over directing duties to George Lucas.

Lucas has proven himself a savvy and accomplished film producer but he is an idea man, not an auteur. When he hands over his ideas and projects to more capable directors we get Robert Zemeckis’ wonderful Back to the Future: The Search for Doc Brown’s Brain. But when he sits in the chair himself his stilted dialogue, over reliance on CGI action set pieces and bizarre obsession with talking dogs yields drivel like his unbearable prequel to “It’s a Wonderful Life”. That excess is present in this remake of Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy. If Incarcerated accomplishes anything it’s that it reminds us how lucky we were that he didn’t direct the Star Wars Prequels.

Will Smith, fresh from his latest stint in rehab, plays Adam McNamararara, a former Navy Seal who is kidnapped and imprisoned for a weekend. He has 72 hours to find out why.

Changing the time period from fifteen years to two days is an interesting choice in that we don’t have to worry to much about boring stuff like the psychological impact on Adam, but it’s never explained how his hair and beard grew in that short space of time or what it is that lets him slow down time. Adam seems to be able to do whatever it is that the script demands. When the propellers came out of his skull and he flew away I just held up my hands in defeat. Smith is fine in the role but he is still quite clearly abusing drugs. The other actors in the scene seemingly have to move to meet his gaze which means poor Joseph Gordon Levitt spends most of the time delivering his lines lying down. There’s a particularly embarassing clunker when Smith falls asleep while saying “Aw Hell Naw”. A competent director might have tried incorporating this in to the narrative but Lucas doesn’t. In fact an arm in his unmistakeable flannel shirt can be seen entering from the side of the frame to wake him.

There are bright spots. Dame Judi Dench does some amazing work here as the villainous Steven Chambers. Most people were curious as to why the gender of the film’s antagonist was swapped after Martin Freeman dropped out, but in this context Dench’s quiet and formal demeanour adds much needed menace. Having said that, it is distracting that they didn’t think to change the characters name and her nude Tai-Chi scene that opens the film seems unnecessary.

What you all want to know is if Oldboy’s killer twist remains intact. Especially considering Smith cast his daughter Willow as Stephanie (Mi-Do, in the original). Well let me tell you, the twist is in. Let that just sink in.

Thankfully Lucas and Smith aren’t insane enough to go through with it and the reveal comes just before the…er deed is about to take place and even then Stephanie is revealed to have been Judi Dench in disguise all along. But the actual actress Judi Dench, not the character she plays. I admire the risk that Lucas took with that rug pull but it makes no logical sense. Why would Judi Dench be in San Fransisco at Christmas?

Lucas just can’t handle material like this and his limitations keep rearing their head. Everytime Adam and Steven confront each other they walk around each other in a big circle. Whenever Adam is receiving information from someone they are either walking down a long corridor or sitting on a sofa. Occasionally someone will stand up and walk over to a window but it’s not enough.

All in all Incarcerated is a failure but deserves credit for trying something different. It goes too far in the wrong direction but a better filmmaker could have given the script a bit of a polish (not too much mind, the robot dog is hilarious!) but as it stands it’s certainly not worth your ¥500.

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Posted on January 5, 2014, in Film and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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