FilmDistrict will release Spike Lee’s Oldboy, starring Josh Brolin, Samuel Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, and James Ransone on Thanksgiving weekend this year. And the version you’ll see is 104 minutes long. Apparently it wasn’t always so – Spike Lee’s initial cut was around 3 hours. Now, it’s important to understand that many first passes on a film’s edit – the assembly cut – run about this length. It’s entirely possible that when Josh Brolin spoke to the LA Times regarding the film, he was referring to such an assembly.
But it sure doesn’t seem like it. The paper claims he preferred Lee’s three hour “director’s cut,” which was “quieter” and more “character-centric” than the version that will appear this Thanksgiving. The fact that the film seems to have undergone a content and even tonal shift while paring down the running time suggest that Lee may have had an original vision that was simply not going to work in wide release. The Times asked Brolin what he thought about the finished film and he replied, “I do have opinions, but it’s better to bite my tongue.”
Only time (lots of it – we won’t get a straight answer on this for months or years) will tell. But for now it might be worth noting that Oldboy is being referred to as a “Spike Lee Film” rather than his more personal label of “Spike Lee Joint.”