Park Chan-wook's vicious story of vengeance is shocking in ways that most other movies can't perceive, but it contains an irresistible flicker of humanity, and it works on a thrillingly primal level. The first images of Oh Dae-su in Oldboy (2003) -- in Korean with English subtitles -- are of an obnoxious drunk, but it's not long before his confinement makes him sympathetic; no one deserves this kind of torture. Yet his mind is free, and it's intriguing to see his attempts to pass the time, to hold onto something. All the while, the mystery of his being there makes these moments doubly intriguing. Even after the character's release, Park continues to sustain the movie's intense spell to the final shot, playing off of the character's transformation.
Now taut, darkened, and haunted, he's as unsure of himself around Mi-do as he is capable of violence. An unforgettable scene has him eating a live squid, just to feel the sensation of it. But in arguably the movie's most famous shot, Park simply tracks left and right for several minutes as Oh Dae-su fights dozens of thugs in real time. The movie keeps the mystery going in a satisfying and intelligent manner, giving it an appropriate, quite brutal payoff that doesn't cheapen the story. The showdown, set in a penthouse lined with quiet, indoor streams, is a place of order that is soon turned to chaos. (Spike Lee's English remake, Oldboy, was released in 2013.)