By Sarah Sluis
Back in college, shortly after 2005's Old Boy was released, the movie was a certifiable word-of-mouth cult hit. Recommendations for the movie passed from one freaked-out viewer to another. At that time, I had no idea that the movie was the 2004 recipient of the Grand Prize Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival. I just knew that this odd, compelling movie that was heads and tails above most movies that ten times as many people had seen.
Shortly after the Cannes triumph, there was talk of Steven Spielberg producing, and Will Smith starring, in a remake of the original. Now Mandate plans to produce the film with Spike Lee in talks to direct. Lee last directed the box-office disappointment Miracle of St. Anna in 2008, but he's also shown surprising chops at directing thriller/heist/crime fare like Clockers, The 25th Hour, and Inside Man, a far cry from the kind of film that originally gave Lee his cach, Do the Right Thing. Lee would know how to handle this action/thriller/drama.
Old Boy works because of its story as well as its style. Director Chan-wook Park awes with his creativity, especially in this long-take fight scene that's become a YouTube favorite, judging by the amount of videos that capsuled the scene. Park's most recent film, Thirst, showed a similar panache for creating an unsettling tone and striking visual landscape.
Lee, an auteur in his own right, will have to come up with his own take on Old Boy in order to match Park's acheivement. I hope that Will Smith is still considering the role. Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, another Smith film) has written the adaptation of the original screenplay, based on a popular manga. The story centers on a man who is imprisoned in a hotel room without cause for fifteen years. When he's finally released, he goes on a search to find out who kidnapped and jailed him. But it turns out his enemy's revenge plot isn't finished. In this case, revenge goes deep, with punishment that wouldn't be unfamiliar to Greek playrights. Just saying. Mandate is known for its smart, quirky projects (Juno, Whip It) along with its horror fare (Drag Me to Hell, Passengers). Maybe Old Boy will be both.