I Saw the Devil Movie Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Movie distributed by Magnet Releasing
Directed by Kim Jee-woon
Written by Park Hoon Jung
2010, 141 minutes, Not Rated
Movie released on March 4th, 2011
Lee Byung-Hun as Soo-Hyun
Choi Min-Sik as Kyung-Chul
Chun Kook-Haun as Captain Jang
Chun Ho-Jin as Detective Oh
Oh San-Ha as Ju-Yeon
Kim Yoon-Seo as Se-Yeon
The one thing that Koreans seem to do really well lately in their films is revenge. They get to the very heart of vengeance and show a raw side of it that we just don't see in America. I Saw the Devil is no different. Kyung-Chul (Choi Min-Sik) is a brutal serial killer preying on defenseless women. He's been at it for some time, but when his latest victim is Ju-Yeon (Oh San-Ha), the daughter of former police chief Captain Jang (Chun Kook-Haun), his reign of terror is challenged. Ju-Yeon's elite special agent fiancee Soo-Hyun (Lee Byung-Hun) springs into action to avenge the death of his love, who, unbeknownst to him, was also carrying his child.
What follows is over two hours of some of the most fierce revenge action I've ever seen. Soo-Hyun is out to make Kyung-Chul suffer. Yes, he wants to kill him, but he also wants to make sure that it's drawn out and as painful as possible. Kyung-Chul does not deserve a quick death for the pain that he's caused. Soo-Hyun uses his connections to get a special GPS / microphone capsule. He manages to track down Kyung-Chul and makes him swallow the device after knocking him unconscious. He leaves him and then keeps tabs on him with the device. Whenever Kyung-Chul gets up to no-good, Soo-Hyun swoops in like a brutal Korean Batman and beats the crap out of him only to disappear moments later.
This escalates with Kyung-Chul eventually figuring out the game. The stakes get bigger and Soo-Hyun is faced with the stark reality that he is starting to resemble the monster that he is hunting.
I Saw the Devil has an incredibly strong first half hour. The story is very quick moving and hits the ground running. No time is wasted getting into the vengeance. After the initial meeting between Soo-Hyun and Kyung-Chul, though, things start to get a little comical. When Soo-Hyun attacks Kyung-Chul the second time, nearly everyone in the audience started laughing. Yes, it's a rough fight to watch with tons of gore, but the way it's gone about goes against the tone of the film. Soo-Hyun bursts in with a fire extinguisher in hand and just starts wailing on Kyung-Chul. After doing a number on him, he stops the nurse from leaving the scene. Despite her almost being raped by this monster, Soo-Hyun asks her to stay to bandage him up.
This tonal shift continues with the later encounters between the two men. I don't know if this is meant as comic relief or not, but that's something that would definitely be needed in a film like this. Fortunately the climax of the film brings it back to the fast-paced speed seen in the beginning along with an incredibly tense final battle between good and evil.
Both of the leads here turn in stellar performances. They also both use a lack of emotion with their character. Soo-Hyun cannot mourn the loss of his love until her murderer is killed. As a result, he's all business as he methodically goes through all the suspects before finding Kyung-Chul. Meanwhile, Kyung-Chul performs his murders like they're second nature. His actions result in brutal slayings and he goes about the removal of the body and the cleanup as if he had just knocked over a vase. It isn't until Kyung-Chul is confronted by Soo-Hyun that he starts to lose control. The hunter becomes the hunted and he doesn't like it at all.
I Saw the Devil is certainly not for everyone. If you're even the least bit squeamish, you should probably see something else as this film lives up to its description as "shockingly violent." If you're a fan of the Vengeance Trilogy, though, this is right up your alley especially since Choi Min-Sik was also was both the lead in Oldboy and co-starred in Lady Vengeance. I Saw the Devil features some harsh murders and some outright despicable human beings, but when this is put together the result is a tense thriller about obsession and the difference between good and evil.
I Saw the Devil hits theaters on March 4th.
Video, Audio and Special features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screening.
Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.