In the 1990s Joe (Josh Brolin) wakes up locked in a room where he is kept for 20 years. When he’s mysteriously released he goes in search of answers…and revenge.
My very first post on Screen Goblin was on this film, and whether it’s right to do a remake primarily for the purpose of translating it into English. The best that can be said is that it made me want to see the original again. Yet the power of the original story, once again told here in full, violent and shocking fashion is undeniable in this remake. The combination of the brilliant, clever plot with superbly done action sequences and over the top violence is what made the original so popular, and the fact that all these boxes are ticked here makes this a very hard film not to enjoy. It’s like Only God Forgives with a plot.
Brolin is terrific as Joe, both in terms of his physical commitment to the role, and the emotional pull of his performance. Samuel L. Jackson does what he’s always done in Lee’s films and makes a huge impact in a small role, donning a super cool blond Mohawk and red jacket which add to his already considerable presence. Sharlto Copley is also once again both unrecognisable and magnificent, with the late blooming South African continuing to build his reputation as an outstanding character actor.
The visual quality remains with a few Spike Lee twists while keeping the essence of the original. The famous hallway fight scene is redone and is equally impressive, even if there’s a sense that Lee may be trying to outdo Chan-wook Park.
Did this film need to be made? No. Is enough changed to justify a remake? Certainly not. Is it still an enjoyable and powerful thriller? Yes it is. True, most of its strengths are thanks to the people who made the original, but that doesn’t make this remake any less enjoyable, and should bring a new audience to this excellent film.