Spike Lee Directing 'Oldboy'

Spike Lee will direct the 'Oldboy' remake. Let the debates begin.

spike lee oldboy movie remake

Mandate Pictures has confirmed the previous reports that Spike Lee is directing the Oldboy remake. Around the Web, many fans of Park Chan-wook's Korean-language adaptation of the Japanese comic book are already starting to voice their concern - or disdain - for both this particular choice in director, and the fact that an Oldboy remake is happening at all.

So does having Spike Lee at the helm of a remake of a cult-classic foreign film spell doom? Or might Lee surprise all of his doubters?

Right now there aren't enough details to say for sure whether this remake is a going to be a stillborn babe, or perhaps a new and refreshingly original approach to the material. All we have to go on is the brief press release from Mandate Pictures:

Mandate Pictures announced today that Spike Lee (Inside Man) will direct OLDBOY, a remake of the highly-acclaimed South Korean film. Mark Protosevich has adapted the screenplay and will co-produce. Roy Lee and Doug Davison (The Departed, The Grudge) will produce. The film is a Vertigo Entertainment/40 Acres & A Mule Production. Mandate President Nathan Kahane will executive produce.

“It’s a great honor to put this special project into the hands of such a gifted writer and iconic director,” said Kahane.

With no stars attached, it's hard to say whether or not Lee will indeed be transforming the nature of Oldboy's story - about a man imprisoned by unseen captors for 15 years before setting out on a quest for bloody revenge - into an "urban tale" that sits in league with many of his other films (Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, etc...), or if he will stick closer to the source material and keep the Asiatic setting and characters intact. It could conceivably be a combination of the two, if you really think about it (urban American setting, Asian characters).

Spike Lee courts a LOT of controversy for some of his more outspoken off-camera views on everything from race to politics (who'd think those would be controversial subjects?); However, those who tend to label the filmmaker "a hack" (or worse) are somewhat in denial of his talent behind the camera. For a fun exercise, take a look at the sharp photography and vividly rich cinematography of Do The Right Thing, and then remind yourself that this movie was released in 1989. Visually speaking, Lee was a filmmaker ahead of his time.

I say all that to say: this Oldboy remake could turn out to be a well-crafted vision of the source material - especially if Lee focuses on telling THE story, as opposed to trying to tell one of HIS well-branded "joints." The fact that Lee has struggled to put out a movie since 2008 (the poorly-received Miracle at St. Anna) probably has him in more of a...collaborative spirit at this point. Here's hoping.

Of course, a fraction of those reading this won't even read far enough to consider these points - the words "Oldboy" and "Spike Lee" in the title together will be enough to set them off. C'est la vie.

We'll keep you updated about the progress of (here it comes) Spike Lee's Oldboy as we hear it.

Source: Mandate Pictures

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