It’s very rare to see a revenge flick have both violence and an actual story that you care about. Too often do movies either tend to go one way or another. Nothing’s worse than a revenge movie that’s boring and lacks violence, but at the same time, it’s not easy sitting through a story that’s supposed to have an emotional attachment, but ends up having shallow characters that you could care less about. I Saw the Devil manages to fulfill all the requirements that make a revenge movie work. It’s extremely brutal and at the same time full of heart. I think the main reason it works so well is the solid performances by everyone involved and the wonderful direction. I will warn everyone once again that this movie is VERY VIOLENT. It is one of the more brutal movies I have seen in the past few years.
I Saw the Devil is a fairly simple story. On one side you have Byung-hun Lee, who plays secret agent Kim-Soo hyeon and on the other side you have a psychopath killer named Kyung-Chul, who is played by Min-sik Choi. What ties them together is the secret agents wife, who is brutally murdered by Chul. After Chul murders her, the agent vows to make the killer suffer as much as his wife did. He begins to hunt down who killed her. He starts with a list of four people and slowly narrows it down until he finds Chul. What makes this story different than your average revenge flick is what happens when he finds Chul. Instead of just killing him and moving on, he decides to torture Chul slowly. He beats him within an inch of his life and then he plants a tracking device in him and leaves. He then listens to Chul’s every move, waiting for him to mess up again, so he can resurface and beat the crap out of him. Each time the agent hurts Chul, you can see his eyes turning more and more lifeless. It makes you question where the line separates good and evil.
I can’t help myself by saying I LOVED this movie. I am a huge fan of the revenge genre and when a movie like this comes along, I have to praise it. It’s so unique in its execution. The movie slowly starts up but once it gets going, it never stops or pulls over to give you a break. You’re thrown into the world of serial killers and how they think. I thought the acting by the two leads were fantastic. Byung-hun Lee plays a very cold and determined agent who really doesn’t care about anything besides inflicting pain on the one who killed his wife. He has a killing look in his eye that really makes him scary. It’s not easy for a small guy to look so intimidating! On the other hand, you have Min-sik Choi, who plays the killer named Chul. I’ve seen Choi in Oldboy and I absolutely loved him. He brings that same transformation to this film. At the opening of the movie, he looks like a normal guy, but after his first kill he slowly becomes more and more insane. I couldn’t even recognize him by the end of the movie. He was screaming and shouting and covered in blood.
Another thing I really enjoyed with this movie was the way it handled itself midway. Too often do these types of movies slow down on both the violence and the story, but I Saw the Devil never manages to let up. It’s constantly packed with action and violence while maintaining a simple story. It took several turns that I didn’t expect and it felt really refreshing.
The only complaint I kept hearing about this movie was the long running time. 2 hours and 21 minutes is long for a revenge film, but they don’t waste any time. It might seem kind of slow at the beginning, but let the movie kick in and you will be clutching your seat in no time.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with I Saw the Devil. It was a brutal and unrelenting, but it still had a solid story at its core. It’s not for the squeamish and I must mention that it is a foreign film, which means it has subtitles, but don’t let that turn you away from such an awesome movie!
I Saw the Devil – 9/10