Movie Review: Oldboy is Retarded

By Matthew Louis

Josh Brolin doing something violent for some reason.
Am I allowed to call a movie “retarded”? Does that violate some PC stricture? You use the word. We all use the word. It doesn’t offend retarded people. And even if it does, retarded people can't read. So if you’re reading this, don’t tell any retards I said that. But one thing you might want to tell them is that I have the perfect movie for them: Old Boy.

I don’t know whose idea this movie was or what its history is, and I’m not even gonna bother to Google it. Based on a glance at the promo material I was kind of expecting something like that ’90s Mel Gibson flick, Payback.

And it was like Payback, if Payback was retarded. I mean, you have a guy trying to get revenge for something. The guy looks like a rugged action movie type of guy. Someone did him wrong. He has a hammer and a scowl. Seems like all the ingredients are there.

The whole thing falls apart maybe ten minutes in. I was a little drunk, I admit, so my recall here isn’t perfect, but the first thing that annoyed me is, the Josh Brolin character is this slick salesman and we see him charm the pants off a high caliber client, clinch a critical deal, and then, when the client goes to take a leak, Josh makes a sloppy, asinine play for the guy’s wife and blows the deal out of the water.

If you’ve ever been or known a salesman, or read a book about selling, you know just how far-fetched this is. The point at which the deal is closed, but no money has been transferred or papers signed, is when you absolutely do not rock the boat. This bullshit would never happen. While Big Client took a leak, Josh would be handling the wife like a vial of nitroglycerine.

Oh yeah, Samuel L. Jackson is in the movie.
He calls people "motherfucker" a lot.
But, then, well . . . Hard to discern how that connects to what ends up happening. The premise of this movie is almost indescribably idiotic. For some reason, after he blows the deal, a shit-faced Brolin is kidnapped and kept in a hotel room cum maximum security prison and fed Chinese food and vodka for an even 20 years. In that time, he’s framed for his ex-wife’s murder and does enough Jane Fonda workouts to keep looking like a guy who goes to 24 Hour Fitness several times a week, and to have the stamina to run and brawl like a genetically-modified super agent when he gets out.

The way he gets out is utterly moronic too. We suffer with him as he successfully reenacts the Shawshank Redemption escape, and then, when he goes back to get his personal effects so he can hit the street and look up Andy Dufresne, his captors just gas him unconscious, clean him up so he looks like a movie star, and leave him in a trunk in the middle of a field. So why did we go through the Shawshank Redemption business? Nobody knows.

From this point, the movie is a solidly-compacted block of shit. For reasons not explained, this guy who hasn’t done any cardio for two decades, and who has no background in ninjitsu, can fight like Bruce Lee on PCP. First he inexplicably beats up some high school jocks, snapping ankles and jaws with abandon. In a later scene, he takes on several dozen bad guys from central casting in a kind of a psychotic Three Stooges sequence that has no relation to anything else in the movie.

Poor girl can't get anyone except old,
troubled, neurotics wanted for murder to
hang out with her.
It goes on with a lot of slapdash scenes and improbable plot points for a while. You hang on in the hopes that someone was in charge somewhere, and the movie was intentionally shitty, heretofore, in order to set you up for a spectacularly clever twist. No such luck. A young, sexy girl—who inexplicably and implausibly gloms onto the middle-aged, ultra-violent, socially inept, wanted wife-killer—is thrown in more or less randomly. She and Josh then do a Hardy Boys thing, trying to discover who imprisoned Josh for twenty years.

Then the guy responsible makes an appearance for some reason or other, and he’s a comic book super villain with a neatly-trimmed beard and a diabolical quasi-English accent. Sort of a hybrid between Dr. Evil and General Zod from Superman II. Then there’s a ridiculously convoluted backstory covered, explaining that the super villain’s family was into incest and Josh caught them in the act and told everyone at school. So the super villain, we learn, undertook the whole plot for his “ingenious” revenge.
The bastard spawn of Dr. Evil and
General Zod, fucking with Josh Brolin.

The revenge? The young, sexy girl, who Josh has a fling with, was his, Josh’s, daughter all along. That’s it. The super villain had a twenty-plus-year plan, full of holes and idiocies, to make Josh, his prep school nemesis, boink his own daughter.

Apologies if I ruined it for you. Don’t worry if the idea of incest makes you uncomfortable. Josh wouldn’t have boinked his own daughter. He wouldn’t have blown the sale in the beginning which, ostensibly, put him in a position to be easily kidnapped. His hot daughter wouldn’t want anything to do with the Chinese food-fed, fifty-year-old, volatile shut-in wanted for murder. The super villain, if he was that dysfunctional and ingenious, would not spend decades obsessing on some asshole from prep school. He’d probably be running the World Bank. And he would have just had Josh iced long ago. In which case there would be no Old Boy. Which would make the super villain something of a hero.

Matthew Louis is the founding editor of Gutter Books and Out of the Gutter.