The Oldboy remake: Is its violence necessary?

The new version is as squirm-inducing as the Korean original. Tom Brook asks director Spike Lee why he thinks grisliness is essential to the story.

How do you try to remake Oldboy? The answer for director Spike Lee was clear: stay true to the spirit of the original. His version of the story about a man inexplicably held captive by an unknown nemesis in a hotel-like prison for 20 years – only to be just as mysteriously released – is due in cinemas on 27 November in the US and 6 December in the UK, 10 years after Park Chan-wook’s original premiered in South Korea.

Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L Jackson anchor the cast, but the real star is the film’s violence, which is on a par with Park’s grisly vision. “I’ve always thought about violence, and I’ve always tried to not make violence cartoonish,” Lee says. “It’s been realistic. There’s nothing to joke about.”

Tom Brook talks to Lee and Olsen about the distinct challenges of remaking such a polarising piece of cinema.

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