“Your nightmare’s only getting worse”
I Saw The Devil is a Korean horror/thriller from 2010 that is often described as “the Korean Se7en” While it shares some similar themes with Se7en, I Saw The Devil is a much more complex movie & is also a lot darker in its themes & imagery. It is a remarkable piece of filmmaking, full of atmosphere, style & extreme violence.
Soo-hyun is a government agent who is engaged to be married to Joo-yun, the daughter of the local police chief. As the movie starts Joo-yun is sitting in her car (which has a flat tyre) at the side of the road in the snow. Kyung-chul drives up & asks if she needs help to change her tyre. Joo-you politely declines, stating she will wait for the tyre company to arrive. Kyung-chul seems to leave, then returns & violently attacks Joo-yun before kidnapping, killing & dismembering her. Joo-yun’s dismembered body is discovered & Soo-hyun vows revenge. Using information given to him by Joo-yun’s father, Soo-hyun tracks down each of the men the police suspect of the crime until he discovers Joo-yun’s engagement ring in an old building used by Kyung-chul. Soo-hyun tracks Kyung-chul down at a greenhouse where he is about to rape a new victim & brutally beats Kyung-chul & suffocates him until he passes out. After breaking his wrist he forces the unconscious Kyung-chul to swallow a transmitter so he can track & listen in on Kyung-chul’s every moment, vowing to make him suffer constantly. So begins a game of cat & mouse that sees the righteous man become a monster to punish a monster. But things do not run smoothly & before long the hunter becomes the hunted.
Directed by Kim Ji-woon, I Saw The Devil is a stunning movie. Clocking in at just over two hours it is a thriller of almost epic proportions. The acting by the two leads is flawless Lee Byung-hun is excellent as Soo-hyun, a man consumed by vengeance who sacrifices his own humanity in his quest for retribution. His performance is ice-cold until the gravity of what happens overcomes everything. But this is Choi Min-sik’s movie. Anyone who has seen Oldboy will know how good an actor he is, but his performance in this movie is breathtaking. Choi Min-sik is no stranger to playing the bad guy. His performance as the villian of Lady Vengeance was wonderfully subtle. Here he really shines as Kyung-chul, a vicious psychopath, giving his character a genuine air of menace. His portrayal of Kyung-chul makes Kevin Spacey’s John Doe seem like a quaker in comparison (& I loved Se7en & Spacey’s performance) Choi Min-sik is really THAT good. If there is any justice Kyung-chul will go down in cinema history as one of the most chilling killers ever to grace the screen. The script is perfectly paced, giving time to allow the characters real depth & sucking you (the audience) into the story that by its conclusion you are truly on the edge of your seat. As is the norm for Kim Ji-woon, the film looks beautiful. From the gently falling snow at the movie’s start, a beautiful image in stark contrast to the violence committed on Joo-yun. To the green-tinged fluorescents in the greenhouse, the movie’s look is stunning. The movie pulls no punches in its depiction of violence & brutality & is certainly not for the squeamish. The end of the movie, which I will obviously not spoil here is incredibly powerful & the last images of the movie really stick in your head long after the credits have rolled.
This film in my opinion is a must see/buy. A thriller that can stand alongside Park Chan-wook’s incredible Vengeance Trilogy as the pinnacle of this particular genre. Please don’t take my word for it, see this movie for yourself. A rare work of raw power & genius. Highly recommended.