dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey

TOO many home en­ter­tain­ment choices this week and, true to re­cent form, DVD Let­ter­box chose the wrong one to re­view.

So two rec­om­men­da­tions be­fore the malaise. Ni­cole Holofcener’s Enough Said (M, Fox, 93min, $29.99) is a wry lit­tle ro­man­tic com­edy star­ring Ju­lia Louis-Drey­fus and James Gan­dolfini in his penul­ti­mate role.

It was a lit­tle over-praised be­cause of Gan­dolfini’s death but Drey­fus is “in the zone” as an ac­tress and Holofcener, whose most re­cent films in­clude Please Give and Friends with Money, de­liv­ers again with a won­der­ful, un­der­stated look at mid­dle-aged love.

The mu­sic doc­u­men­tary Mis­taken for Strangers (M, Mad­man, 75min, $29.99) is a ter­rific film that could pass you by if you’re not a fan of the US in­die dar­lings the Na­tional. But it’s not so much a mu­sic doco as a comic and af­fect­ing look at a fa­mil­ial bond as lead singer Matt Berninger al­lows his bum­bling brother, Tom, to fol­low his band on tour. Most amus­ing.

Which brings me to Old­boy. To re­make or not to re­make, that is never the ques­tion asked by Hol­ly­wood stu­dios. Spike Lee has taken on the fraught task of adapt­ing one of the most vis­ceral, as­tound­ing for­eign films of the past decade, Chan-wook Park’s Old­boy (MA15+, Univer­salSony, 104min, $29.99). The orig­i­nal 2004 film hit me like an axe. Bru­tally vi­o­lent and with a plot that shocked, Old­boy’s psy­cho­sex­ual tale of de­mented re­venge, for bet­ter or worse, de­manded a re­sponse.

Lee’s 2013 re­make, at least to those who saw the orig­i­nal, will elicit a shrug. Sure, it fol­lows Park’s film faith­fully with the fried dumplings (but no oc­to­pus) and the one-man fight against a chain of thugs, but for what? Lee doesn’t build on the orig­i­nal, so it feels like a mere repack­ag­ing for a broader English­language au­di­ence.

Joe (Josh Brolin) is mys­te­ri­ously kid­napped and held hostage for 20 years in soli­tary con­fine­ment. His con­fine­ment is un­in­ter­est­ing be­cause Brolin is at his worst here, re­sort­ing mainly to grunts. Only when he’s re­leased do Brolin and the film lift, al­though the re­venge tale loses some of its in­ter­est with an early re­veal of Joe’s “keeper” (a vil­lain­ous Sharlto Co­p­ley, who ap­pears to have just am­bled in from a 1990s ac­tion film).

Part of the orig­i­nal’s ap­peal was its baroque at­mos­phere (which Park repli­cated in last year’s un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated Stoker) and sharp com­po­si­tion. Any query about his cyn­i­cism was coun­tered by his cin­e­matic skill. Lee, who last di­rected a fea­ture in 2006 (the solid In­side Man), doesn’t seem as cre­atively en­gaged.

It is a leaner film than Park’s but some of the di­a­logue and de­liv­ery are ridicu­lous, the main fight scene is com­i­cally bad and Brolin comes into his own only in the film’s sec­ond half (al­though El­iz­a­beth Olsen is very good).

Which leaves one ques­tion: why?

Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

This week

Sun­light Jr (MA15+) Mad­man (90min, $29.99)

Lon­don: The Mod­ern Baby­lon (M) Mad­man (128min, $29.99)

Kill Your Dar­lings (MA15+) Univer­salSony (99min, $39.95)

Back­yard Ashes (M) Um­brella (90min, $39.99)

Reel Time with Michael Bodey,

ev­ery Wed­nes­day in The Aus­tralian Cap­i­tal city cin­ema times,

Out & About, page 28

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