This is extremely intriguing news. Oldboy is not just one of the best films to ever come out of Korea, but one of the best films period. It’s original, dark, and twisted as hell, and I cringed when the US remake rights were picked up a couple years ago. News from Variety this morning has me cringing a little bit less. Just a little bit though…
Steven Spielberg is apparently in the process of acquiring the remake rights for Dreamworks, in the hopes of directing the film with Will Smith as the star. Spielberg’s currently searching for a writer, so the deal seems imminent. I expect this news will actually make many people more upset than they already were by the unavoidable remake, but I’d ask them to reconsider.
Oldboy, directed by Chan-wook Park, is about a man who’s kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years without explanation or contact with his captor(s). He’s inexplicably released and given five days to discover who did this to him and why. What follows is a grueling, stylish, and suspenseful exploration of revenge, torture, and tragedy. It’s both amazingly violent and surprisingly thoughtful, and a US remake will never do it justice.
Which brings us back to the possible pairing of Spielberg and Smith for the remake. It’ll be both easy and instinctual to pounce on the duo for Spielberg’s very real mishandling of the latest Indiana Jones film and Smith’s perceived mangling of the I Am Legend reboot or Hancock. I would argue though that whatever faults you find in those films, both real and imagined, both men have proven themselves many times before in their careers.
Spielberg is obviously technically and stylistically talented, and he’s proven he can do hard ‘R’ violence and intensity with films like Munich and Saving Private Ryan. He wouldn’t have been my first choice as director (hello David Fincher!) but my concern would easily lessen with his experience, talent, and unlimited budget at the helm. Smith has substantial experience with action films, but they’ve almost exclusively been of the ‘PG13’ variety. He also wouldn’t have been my first choice as actor (hello Mel Gibson! that’s right, Mel Gibson!) but I’m intrigued by the possibility. His last three films have seen him go as dark as he’s ever been (in character, not skin tone) and while they’re light years away from the grotesque depths required for Old Boy, I’m willing to give Smith the benefit of the doubt that he could pull it off.
What do you think? Are Spielberg and Smith up to the task of adapting Oldboy for US audiences?