I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) – The Dungeon Review!
I was turned on to I Saw The Devil via the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Rue Morgue. Besides its Goregirl-friendly serial killer/vengeance premise it is directed by Jee-woon Kim whose impressive list of films includes The Quiet Family, A Tale Of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad and The Weird. There has been some fantastic stuff coming from Korea the last decade. One of my favourites being Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance trilogy. Besides the vengeance connection, I Saw The Devil features Min-sik Choi as the films serial killer Kyung-Chul. Min-sik Choi’s amazing performance in Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy stayed with me for days after, and his role here as the serial killer is no less memorable! Needless to say, there was plenty of reason to check this one out. Unfortunately I Saw The Devil is not readily available in Canada at the moment, but is tentatively set to make a limited appearance in cinemas soon and will hopefully find a home on DVD shortly after. I highly recommend putting I Saw The Devil on your watch list.
Special Agent Kim Soo-hyeon seeks revenge for the brutal murder of his fiancée. In pursuit of this goal he unleashes an unrelenting assault of bloody violence that blurs the line between himself and the man he is setting out to punish.
You can hardly call the premise of I Saw The Devil original but the beauty of the film is all in the execution. I Saw The Devil is more of a dramatic thriller than a straight up horror film, but I certainly can’t deny the film its brutality. There is plenty of bloody violence in the film. Special Agent Kim Soo-hyeon acquires a list of four suspects and beats his way through it until he gets to his man; Kyung-Chul. He literally interrupts Kyung-Chul before he has a chance to kill an unfortunate young woman. Kim Soo-hyeon pulverizes Kyung-Chul and forces a tracking device down his throat and leaves him alive. He repeats this pattern of catch beat and release with the intention of breaking the man. Bloody hell does he mess this guy up!
Min-sik Choi is unforgettable as serial killer Kyung-Chul. He is wholly unlikable and an evil bastard but once in a while you almost understand him. Kyung-Chul’s victims of choice are young women and girls whom he can easily overpower. When the stalker becomes the stalked he appears to barely be a challenge. The beatings Kyung-chul takes from Kim Soo-heyon are merciless. Make no mistake though Kyung-Chul is bad ass and this man takes his medicine and then asks for some more. Kyng-Chul will not be an easy man to break. It is never wise to underestimate your enemy. The two central characters are extremely well paired. Special Agent Kim Soo-hyeon is tidy and clinical while Kyung-Chul is disheveled and erratic. There is much to be learned by just watching the two men’s body language and while each have different approaches they are equally expressive. Byung-hun Lee is very good as the wronged Kim Soo-hyeon. He is young, attractive, seemingly successful and newly engaged. We are given the impression the guy is pretty well grounded. But after they find his fiancée’s head something snaps. I Saw The Devil may reference the film serial Killer Kyung-Chul or may very well be describing our special agent man.
I Saw The Devil is well-filmed with amazing sets and location shots. It has outstanding intensity and scenes of graphic violence that are effectively raw and gritty. These are well balanced with high action and over-the-top stylized sequences. The film is definitely not for the squeamish. There is unflinching ugliness in I Saw The Devil and there is no feeling of satisfaction gained from the vengeance. You will find no light at the end of this long dark tunnel. This brings me to my only criticism of the film. The film runs unnecessarily long. There were bits and pieces that could have been cut out that would have made it a tighter more cohesive package. It’s a relatively small criticism of what is otherwise a completely engrossing film.
I would recommend I Saw The Devil based on Min-sik Choi’s performance alone, but the twists, intensity, thrills and uncompromising violence make it easily worth the price of admission. Highly recommended!
Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5
Directed By: Jee-woon Kim
Starring: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Gook-hwan Jeon, Ho-jin Jeon, San-ha Oh, Yoon-seo Kim