Director: Kim Ji-woon
Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik and Gook-hwan Jeon
I Saw the Devil (2010)
A serial killer makes an exceptionally bad choice, even by serial killer standards, when he kidnaps and murders the fiancée of a highly trained secret services body guard type fellow. Said fellow, Soo-hyun, does not take kindly to finding his woman’s head floating in a pond sans body and soon asks his many law enforcement buddies to pull some strings for him. It doesn’t take long for him to locate the guilty man, a sadistic psychopath named Kyung-chul, who doubles as a school bus driver when he isn’t out slicing and dicing. His other hobbies include hanging out with cannibals, being rude to old people and digging through his own shit, but that isn’t applicable to this review.
I Saw the Devil is not your average revenge tale; it’s more satisfying than that. It explores the old Nietzschean pearl of wisdom: “he who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”. How does chasing this monster change Kyung-chul, and what effect, if any, does it have on his grief over his lost fiancée? The film explores these issues but leaves you to make up your own mind as to whether Kyung-chul becomes a monster himself. I just want to clarify that when I say “monster” I don’t mean the cute furry cookie eating kind found on shows like Sesame Street; think more that-thing-from-Hatchet and less Barney the Dinosaur. If you’re not into all this philosophical stuff then you could just watch it to see a very bad man getting his ass handed to him repeatedly in interesting ways.
Director Kim Ji-woon assembled a fine cast of talented actors, and I Saw the Devil is as well acted as it is entertaining. For those familiar with Korean horror movies, Kim Ji-woon also directed the popular supernatural horror A Tale of Two Sisters, which is worth a look if you prefer strong character driven atmospheric horror to guts and gore. The film stars Lee Byung-hun as Soo-hyun and Choi Min-sik as Kyung-chul, both are accomplished actors in their native South Korea. Many will remember Choi Min-sik from his lead role in Oldboy while Byung-hun worked on Hero and is breaking into the North American scene with the 2009 and 2012 G.I. Joe films.
I Saw the Devil is a very competently made film. Well-acted, entertaining and works on many levels; like a hotel prostitute. I give I Saw the Devil 8 out of 10 punches to the forehead… and a cut foot tendon in this review. Let me know your opinion in the comments.