I Saw the Devil is a shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished tale of murder and revenge. The embodiment of pure evil, Kyung-chul is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. On a freezing, snowy night, his latest victim is the beautiful Juyeon, daughter of a retired police chief and pregnant fiancée of elite special agent Soo-hyun. Obsessed with revenge, Soo-hyun is determined to track down the murderer, even if doing so means becoming a monster himself. And when he finds Kyung-chul, turning him in to the authorities is the last thing on his mind, as the lines between good and evil fall away in this diabolically twisted game of cat and mouse.
Aside from whatever else it might be, this film is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve said this before, but it was made for Blu-ray. The use of color, texture and shadow is excellent. The cinematography is dynamic and the action choreography very well done – a spinning car crash set piece is especially effective. The choice to use practical effects over the more common CGI is a major plus, and it makes the film more believable.
Both main characters are very compelling – Min-sik Choi is especially excellent showing depth and nuance in what could be a very simple character. Though he starts out like what we might expect from a typical serial killer – an emotionless, robotic murderer, slowly it breaks down to make him more human – an awful person, but a person nonetheless. Byung-hun Lee (as the special agent) has a less flashy role, but still brings range. He has to show the character closing down his emotions but still manage to perform intense physical feats as well as show the emotions simmering beneath the surface. His breakdown at the end is excellent.
The whole idea is an interesting take on the revenge subgenre – allowing the killer to live (and to continue to hurt people) so the cop can continue to stop him, rescue the new victims and hurt him again and again. The cop is just as bad as the killer, with no reward. Because he lets the killer live and lets the scenario play out too long, he loses everyone and everything to achieve his revenge. No one wins, which is how it should be in a revenge film.
This film is a slow boil with interspersed violence and gore. Though it’s 2 1/2 hours long it doesn’t feel it at all. The action/fight scenes, when they happen, are visceral and intense. Gorehounds will be pleased – blood is plentiful and impressively used.
I have to give a special mention to the taxicab murder scene – this scene kicks ass. Done almost entirely practically (everything inside the car is practical), it’s one long take of spinning, blood-spurting murder and mayhem. On par with the car crash scene in Let Me In. When the movie’s over, check out the behind-the-scenes on this, it’s worth watching to see how it’s all put together.
There are a few scenes seem a little out of place. Our murderer runs into some old friends who are a gang of murders themselves in a strange Texas Chainsaw family of cannibals way. Though it is confusing at first it leads to yet another violent pay-offf so it doesn’t detract much from the overall story of the film.
Does it pass the Bedchel test?
No. There are several women in the film, but none interact with each other. Mostly they’re just set up to be victims of the murderer. Though extra points for the girls making good choices in trying to avoid our serial killer’s creepy come-ons. They have more realistic reactions than most slasher film starlets.
Would we recommend?
This is definitely one to watch – it’s likely to be one of our best of the year. However, it’s heavy duty stuff, both in violence (there are graphic acts of both physical and sexual violence) and in thematic material. Nothing light here and no punches are pulled. If you are okay with all that, check this out – it’s worth your time. The visuals are just stunning. Grab the Blu-ray for this one if you can.
Expect to see this one on our best of the year list. And a Best Actor nod for Min-sik Choi.