Oldboy ★★½

One shot: the big reveal of Oldboy's final twist is presented, and Joe screams out in pain. Lee dollies backwards, so far to reveal the stage light in the foreground. "That's entertainment!" you can basically hear him gleefully yelp as he slaps his knee. The weirdest melding of auteur and material, Lee shoots the hell out of it with 16mm, elongated tracking shots, and jokes popping out of every frame. It's a misfire, but totally fascinating because half of this movie I can practically hear Spike whispering in your ear "White people love this shit! They're crazy!!" Samuel L Jackson shows up (was his name in the credits? The reveal shot for me was quite fun because I had missed the fact he was in this) to chomp more scenery than he did in Django and deliver the line "Reparations must be made" with ironic sincerity. The material gets more fucked up, not Greek Tragedy like Park but simply fucked-up shit. The violence is at once more sadistic and less so, because I doubt Lee sees a big profound statement in the same way Park thought there was (there's not). Unfortunately, ironic distance cannot sustain a narrative, and poor Elizabeth Olson gets stuck carrying the emotional weight, bringing sympathy to a character and story that's inherently unsympathetic. Lee does what he can to stage an intervention—it's all a television show for someone's entertainment, and both Joe and Sharlto Copley get their private videos to relish in—but eventually the narrative must pass, and this is where the lack of some Bill Lee shows (I assume Spike didn't have a say on the music). At the end of the day, it moves without too much annoyance, though at some point it becomes tiresome. Lee's brother plays a bellhop, signaling where he stands on this material—with a bag of popcorn to laugh at this mockery. He's clearly having fun here, never treating the original like some sacred text. And if we want to put this head to head, would gladly watch the weird stylings of Lee crash against this thing than watch Park's calculated, precise, and absolutely bland Stoker.

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