Directed by Jee-woon Kim
In recent years, South Korea has been known for turning out gritty, violent films, such as The Vengeance Trilogy. I Saw the Devil is a continuation of this movement that illustrates the power of producing a revenge story set in a foreign culture.
A daughter of a police chief and ‘to-be’ wife of a secret agent is beaten and hacked to bits by a psychopath, Kyung-chul. Learning of the death, Soo-hyun defies the law to avenge the slaying of his former lover. A battle of wits and guts ensues between the two disturbed men.
I Saw the Devil is a brutal film to say the least. The direction of Jee-woon Kim conveys a sense of power and emotion that allows the film to avoid falling into Gore Horror territory. The more graphic scenes function to move the audience rather than simply for shock value or novelty. Beneath the violence, a story exists.
The performances of Byung-hun Lee (The Good, The Bad, and The Weird) and Min-sik Choi (The Vengeance Trilogy) are quite remarkable. Byung-hun Lee portrays the wayward detective whose emotions range convincingly throughout the entire spectrum during the film. Min-sik Choi’s role as the somewhat stoic villain is excellent. The audience is pushed to find his character repulsive; yet, there is oddly something likeable, comparable to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.
I Saw the Devil runs nearly two and a half hours which is lengthy for even the best of films. Though the plot is set upon the revenge formula, the appeal of the foreign culture and themes allows for the film to not become repetitive and too demanding of the audience’s attention.
I Saw the Devil is a solid entry in the emerging South Korean crime thriller niche and is well worth a watch.