I Saw The Devil (2011)

Directed By: Jee-woon Kim
Written By: Hoon-jung Park
Starring: Byung-hun Lee
  Min-sik Choi
  Gook-hwan Jeon
  Ho-jin Jeon
I Saw The Devil

I Saw The Devil is brilliantly twisted. It is sick, torturous, wince-inducing and morally questionable, but an utterly compelling and superbly crafted piece of work.

Detective Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee) is on a case when his fiancée is kidnapped, raped and butchered by deranged serial killer Kyung-Chul (Min-sik Choi). Sent on two weeks forced leave, Soo-hyeon decides to conduct his own secret investigation, stealing the files of the four prime suspects; all demented perverts accused of similar crimes in the past. His interrogation methods, however, are not exactly lawful…

After some ball-breaking, head-twatting fun, Soo-hyeon finally finds the man who murdered his love. Instead of arresting him, however, the grief-stricken detective beats Kyung-Chul senseless, smashes his wrist and force-feeds a tracking device down his throat. And thus begins Soo-hyeon’s twisted revenge as he stalks Kyung-Chul wherever he goes, attacking him every time he assaults a woman. It’s a darkly amusing tale of vengeance – albeit severely twisted – that quickly becomes a horrific obsession that has disturbing, rippling consequences.

I Saw The Devil is insanely brutal in places, and simply excruciating in others. The gory violence is raw and vivid, whilst the action is kinetic and exhilarating. Car crashes, hammers to the face, heel stabbing and sexual assaults are frequent but strangely necessary. It’s painfully compelling.

Morally it really forces some awkward questions into your mind. So used to watching the likes of Taken and Crank – which let you thoroughly enjoy the death-dealing revenge without even tickling your conscience – when I Saw The Devil begins to roll towards it’s finale you slowly realise there’s a real and haunting message behind all the blood, guts, tits and torment. Films have warped our sense of right and wrong so adeptly that we don’t blink when Bruce Willis kills a lookout, so when I Saw The Devil begins we smile self-satisfactorily at the punishment dealt out to the masochistic freaks. Even when our main antagonist Kyung-Chul begins being tortured you’re convinced it’s the right thing to do… but then things change. Soo-hyeon’s want for a just vengeance leads to other people being hurt and to an escalation of violence that can only lead to more violence. It’s disturbing, troublesome stuff.

Min-sik Choi is superb as always, adding Kyung-Chul to his list of memorable performances, perhaps even matching his seminal turn in Oldboy. He is disturbingly believable as a psychopathic sexual predator, forcing the audience to almost sympathize with the brutalized madman. Byung-hun Lee is also excellent, delivering a stand-out performance as the troubled detective Soo-hyeon, traveling from honest cop to craven revenge-fuelled sociopath; it is a well observed and chilling descent.

The most astonishing thing about I Saw The Devil is Jee-woon Kim’s direction. Having already given us the kinetically bonkers The Good, The Bad and The Weird in 2008, Jee-woon Kim’s style is firmly stamped on I Saw The Devil. There are some hugely memorable scenes throughout, with an insane murderous rampage inside a taxi cab especially well directed. It is finely crafted, always exciting and heavily reminiscent of Park Chan-Wook’s directional style. I am keen to see what Jee-woon Kim produces in the future.

Perhaps the only real fault in I Saw The Devil is the plotting. After Soo-hyeon begins his revenge-stalking journey, you realise exactly the path he will tumble down and there are so many potential ending points it becomes a little jarring in the last twenty minutes. This is not a huge criticism as the acting and direction cart-wheel the film forwards and it never bores. Those looking for shock twists may be disappointed, although you will probably never guess the ending…

I Saw The Devil could also be viewed as filthily misogynistic as nearly all the female characters are brutalized mentally, physically and sexually, but the message is clearly about the nature of revenge and the reasons why people become monsters, not about the power of men. It also nudges out issues on the vileness of the modern media (in one calamitous “find the severed head” scene), how the police are restricted by their own procedures and the view that everyone everywhere has the capacity to do evil.

I Saw The Devil is superbly dark. It is grotesque, sickening and immensely twisted, but it’s beautifully created and utterly compelling. Not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, I Saw The Devil is essential viewing.

I Saw The Devil is released in selected Cinemas Friday 29th April

I Saw The Devil is released on DVD & Blu Ray on Monday 9th May

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

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