Josh Brolin Cast as ‘Oldboy’ Directed by Spike Lee


He’s Spike Lee’s choice as the new “Oldboy,” the most notorious thriller of all Korean cinema. Josh Brolin has been more head-in than head-out on his selection of film roles since his star wattage blew up after “No Country for Old Men” in 2007. Huge successes or not, Brolin has been in the hands of quality projects that have had redeeming prospects: “Grindhouse,” “In the Valley of Elah,” “American Gangster,” “W.,” “Milk,” “Wall Street 2.” His one intolerable disaster was last year’s “Jonah Hex,” he has shame for putting himself in the hands of incompetent director Jimmy Heywood.

Now Brolin has some major heavy-hitting to do – good or bad, Brolin will inevitably always be remembered for this daring project. As my friends put it, the 2003 Korean “Oldboy” is the most f***ed-up movie they’ve ever seen, stepping into and then well past into the range of ravaging taboo territory. After “Oldboy” everything changed, cinema was not the same.

I am wired in with Spike Lee’s audacious style. Lee can use his sick-nauseating grainy cam that he employed in “Clockers” and “Inside Man” to accommodate this story. The weird alternate reality brainstorm that concludes “25th Hour” as Edward Norton plans a makeover arrangement on his life would also be a visual style to match. Many of Lee’s heroes are their own self-enemies (“Do the Right Thing,” pic above). Many American filmmakers would have been wrong to direct a remake, including the formerly proposed Steven Spielberg, but Spike Lee might be the right guy to do eviscerating justice.

In 2003, the original starred Min-sik Choi who I routinely dub as the Robert DeNiro of Korean cinema. Choi plays Dae-su Oh in “Oldboy,” who is established as an irresponsible drunken louse of a married man and father before the opening credits finish rolling, bumping and tripping into security officers that have detained him before they let him go home. The screen goes black and it fades into a scene of our protagonist trapped in a cell that is not a prison, and is not the work of any penal system.

The cell without windows is furnished with a bed, a shower and a TV and has some aerobic area floor to do exercise. Dae-su Oh bangs the doors and walls endlessly for an explanation, but he is simply given dumplings, food slid through a slot without any reply. Without knowing, he will spend the next 15 years in the cell watching the world go by on T.V. An occasional melody tune goes off as a signal that he is going to be gassed: in every of these six-month anesthesia interludes, he is given a haircut and shaving. He is suddenly released and toyed with a message that he has 7 days to find out who put him there and why. That’s the first twenty minutes of screen time.

The rest embarks with Dae-su Oh as his own detective into his past and forecaster of the immediate future – what will he do to the man who put him in that cell? He scrapes for clues and scratches away at reminisces of who he knew before his life got shut away that many years ago. Who did he @#!*% off? Also, who had the money to bankroll his captivity for 15 years? He goes on occasional rampages against thieves and captors. He eats a live octopus with all tentacles moving as it slurps down his mouth. He finds a female chef named Mido (Gang Hye-Jung) to be his companion as if he was programmed to find her.

Memory distortion has a large part to do with Chan-Wook Park’s story. More important than finding who is to find why, or he will be forever tormented. The explanation is everything – and this backstory of how our hero crossed paths with the villain in the past is awesomely weird and twisted in a way that is too outrageous for the tameness of American cinema. Upon discovery, there are further shockers of discovery. He has no idea that the mastermind is still the one toying with Dae-su Oh now that he is on the outside. Both men are calculating a final revenge that is genre-defying and shocking in the most transcendental invention. By the end you are unconventionally shaken since “Oldboy” is more notorious not for the blood but for the taboos of thematic material that whams your spiritual compass.

There are at first sight some casting holes. Somebody of mindf***ing abilities has got to play the crucial role of the mastermind. Edward Norton? Philip Seymour Hoffman? Cillian Murphy?

Rumor has it that Lee and his producers are trying to go after casting Christian Bale as the mastermind. Rich, arrogant, diabolical, fiendish, the laugh of a sick tormentor… Since Bale once played Patrick Bateman I have no doubt that this would be the perfect casting choice.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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