Fantastic Fest 2010: I Saw The Devil Review
Revenge is a dish best served cold, someone once said. In Kim Jee-woon's I Saw The Devil, revenged is served so fucking cold it's like a block of ice smashed across your face. Kim Jee-woon takes the tried and true serial killer formula and flips it on it disturbed head with fantastic results. Korean superstars Lee Byung-hun (Bittersweet Life, The Good, The Bad and the Weird) and Choi Min-sik (Old Boy) headline this sucker punch of a movie that one wasn't expecting from the man who delivered Tale of Two Sisters and most recently The Good, The Bad and the Weird. Lee plays a secret service agent who's wife has been brutally slain by a sick and twisted serial killer played by Choi. With the help of the girl's father, who's a retired police chief, Lee is able to track down the closest suspects and delivers a swift beat down before moving on to the next in line. Finally he's able to track down Choi at his slaughter house and figure out that he is indeed the killer he's been looking for. But instead of killing him right there and then he beats the living shit out of him and lets him go, but not before inserting a small GPS unit in to him. After that a demented game of catch and release takes place where Choi, who has no idea why this man is after him, gets his ass handed to him and then patched up to be ready for the next round. But while Choi is a demented and a disgusting person he's not stupid and later on he's on to what's going on and things turn around for the worse for Lee.
It's not often that you sit in a movie theater and every single person in there winches and groans because of what is on the screen. It's no wonder that South Korean authorities wanted extensive cuts to be made to the film, it's pretty damn violent and mean spirited. But it could be very easy to do those cuts and not lose the power of the film and Jee-woon manages to infuse pitch black humor in to the story as well that balance things out. The film also caters to the viewers who want to see harm come to Choi's character as it revels in the torture that Lee performs on him. They might just not be ready to the excesses of violence that the film portrays.
The performances in the film are top notch, Choi might be hamming it up a little bit but it sort of fits. Lee is cool as a cucumber, totally set on horrible and slow murder.
I Saw The Devil is a nut kicker of a film, powerful and brutal, funny and sad and not the torture porn that it might sound like it is.