There's only one way a remake of Park Chan-wook's "Oldboy" was ever going to even a have a chance of approaching the original -- embracing the fact the story requires a hard-R to get told right. And for the first trailer for Spike Lee's take on the material, the studio is making it clear that they've gone right to the limit and then some in bringing it to American audiences. Now the question is: does it work?
Granted, even getting fans of the cult original on board the redo with no bias is no small task, but this red band trailer certainly goes for broke in getting not only their attention, but everyone else's. Yes, the structure of the original is there, and even some of the visuals seem to be a bit mirrored -- particularly in the early scenes of Josh Brolin's character's imprisonment -- but once it gets rolling, Lee seems to be making his own impression on the story.
Performance-wise, Josh Brolin looks to be pretty on point and so does everyone else, though Samuel L. Jackson may be on the edge of hamming it up. And like we said, there is no holding back, with blood flowing freely and flesh more than hinted at. And then there is that hammer....yes, they are redoing the nearly untouchable hallway fight scene, but with promises there will be a fresh approach. And while big question remains about how they'll handle the reveal of the movie (curiously, there's not much of Elizabeth Olsen in the spot...), let's remember that this version is borrowing a little more from the manga that started it all than Chan-wook's movie, so some story beats could change.
Lastly, this looks like a massive change of pace for Lee. While his films have always been strongly stamped with a sense of place, this is a distinctly alien world, and it's definitely not Spike's New York City (or any city that we can discern). In fact, the only real references to other places come in the montage of footage (nicely showing the passage of time) at the beginning of the trailer. Lee seems to be working in brand new territory without his regular toolbox, but damn, does he seem to be relishing in it and showing he's got a lot more to show even after decades in the game.
Thoughts, impressions? Sound off below. "Oldboy" comes for vengeance on October 25th.