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Stars: Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Linda Emond, James Ransone, Max Casella

Director: Spike Lee

It is quite possible that Korean filmmaker Park Chan-Wook’s scary and sinister 2003 Oldboy may have been overrated because (a) it was different without being a masterpiece and (b) it was subtitled, which almost inevitably tilted comment toward ‘art’.

After suffering through Spike Lee’s truly abominable Westernized version scripted by Mark Protosevich (who should sue to have his name taken off the credits) I would now happily dub the original as a masterpiece by comparison.

Lee’s ‘remake’ is like being trapped in a sewer for 24 hours by a film that runs a mere 104 minutes but perfectly proves Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is right by seeming to run on forever. Never have the end credits been so welcome even if they arrived far too late to save the farrago.

As the show rolled on and on and on, I began to feel like hungover adman Josh Brolin who is suddenly and inexplicably kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in a room with a view (the view being of him via CCTV and vice versa) and fed on Oriental food and bottles of vodka while growing a beard and shaving it off and growing it again to relieve the monotony. Actually, to be fair, not all his nourishment was Oriental – at one stage he is served his new best friend, a mouse he has befriended as his own ‘Rat Man of Alcatraz’, for lunch. Finally Brolin kicks the booze and sets out to look more like his usual publicity photographs before being released in a box in the middle of a field, after which he sets out to wreak bitter vengeance and to find out why he was held captive for far too long (I knew just how he felt)…

There’s plenty of secondary storylines swimming around in the sodden awful mess served up by Lee, among whose less-than-involving strands are the murder of Brolin’s former wife and his hunt for his captor, aided and abetted by improbable social worker Elizabeth Olsen. Sadly the impact of Lee’s greatest asset - Sean Bobbitt’s atmospheric cinematography – eventually wears off.

Brolin and Olsen go through the motions (and all meanings of the word ‘motions’ should be considered in this respect), Sharlto Copley plays Brolin’s English-accented captor as though he was auditioning for ‘Carry On Cruelly’ while, if he is lucky, Samuel L Jackson’s contribution should, like the cruel, unpleasant and superfluous film itself, soon be forgotten.

Nothing Lee does is anywhere near as terrifying and the most chilling image in the film - a news clip from the TV coverage of 9/11 with aircraft slicing through the twin towers.

Serendipitously, “Isn’t it amazing? People just believe everything they see on television” is one of the few lines I recall. That line may be true for the small screen - but certainly not for this big screen calamity.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
104 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 08 Dec 2013