Violent thriller leaves nasty taste

Josh Brolin stars in 'Oldboy', on release now.
Josh Brolin stars in 'Oldboy', on release now.

With more than its share of violence, ‘Oldboy’ is not for the faint-hearted

Self-destructive advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) vanishes without trace from outside a bar run by his pal Chucky (Michael Imperioli).

Joe wakes in a motel room, which turns out to be a prison cell under the constant surveillance of a shady character called Chaney (Samuel L Jackson).

He is held hostage for the next 20 years, watching TV reports which reveal that he is the prime suspect for the murder of his ex-wife (Hannah Ware), and his daughter Mia has been placed in foster care.

Without warning, Joe is returned to the land of the living. An enigmatic Stranger (Sharlto Copley) reveals that Mia’s life hangs in the balance. To save her, Joe must simply answer two questions: Who is the Stranger and why did he imprison Joe? A plucky social worker called Marie (Elizabeth Olsen) helps the errant father unravel the mystery.

Spike Lee’s English language remake of Park Chan-wook’s exemplary 2003 South Korean thriller, itself loosely based on a Japanese manga, leaves an exceedingly nasty taste in the mouth.

This ‘Oldboy’ is even more giddily violent than its predecessor, cranking up the gore with sadistic glee. Viewers will stagger away from sofas and armchairs knowing exactly how a cranium explodes when hit at speed with a hammer, or how to weaken a neck by cutting out chunks of flesh with a Stanley knife.

Brolin and Olsen embolden thinly sketched protagonists as best they can while the tricksy plot uncoils around them. Characters all look dead behind the eyes and it’s hard to tether sympathy as they wade through a mire of brutality.

‘Oldboy’ (Cert 18, 104 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Thriller/Action, also available to buy DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £24.99)

Starring: Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L Jackson, Hannah Ware, Michael Imperioli.