I Saw The Devil
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Cast: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Gook-hwan Jeon
Review by Brian M. Sammons
I love revenge flicks, they speak to me on a primal “eye for an eye” level that tickles my lizard brain to no end. And boy howdy, it seems like no one does revenge these days like the Koreans do. Oldboy, Lady Vengeance (both directed by Chan-wook Park) and now I Saw The Devil by Jee-woon Kim, whose last film, the aptly named The Good, The Bad, The Weird, I loved to pieces. Sure, there are other good Korean “you did me wrong, now you’re gonna pay” films, but these are three of my favorites.
Oops, I guess the cat’s out of the bag early on how I felt about this film, but let’s make it official.
A young woman gets a flat tire on a lonely road and in doing so, becomes the latest victim of a sadistic serial killer. Unfortunately for the mad murderer, that woman just so happened to have been married to a very driven man who swears that his wife’s killer will know the same pain and fear that she did. To make matters worse, again for the killer, the woman’s father is a retired cop and her husband is some sort of secret agent. So between the two men, it isn’t long until vengeful husband, Soo-hyeon, finds the psychotic Kyung-chul. But here is where things take an unexpected turn. In most revenge flicks you’d expect the husband to kill the madman in a righteous fury. But no, here Soo-hyeon beats the ever living snot out of the killer, then when the bad guy’s unconscious he slips a military grade tracking device down his throat. Why? So he can keep tabs on Kyung-chul and come back to beat him to a pulp time and time again.
In doing that one, simple change, this movie plays with the normal revenge playbook. Director Jee-woon Kim turns the killer into a victim and the grieving husband into a vengeance-obsessed monster just shy of the psycho he wants to punish so vehemently. That new spin on the old genre is what really makes this movie stand out, but there are other praiseworthy elements to this film.
For one, the acting is top notch. Byung-hun Lee as the avenging, grief-stricken husband is both sympathetic and monstrous in his single-mined quest. And while Min-sik Choi as the killer isn’t sympathetic in the least, he is thoroughly believable as a brutal man at ease with doing very brutal things. The direction is up to Jee-woon Kim’s usual high standard, with enough of his off-kilter touches to keep people guessing and wondering just what the hell is going to happen next. This includes a terrifying visit to a hospital, a cab ride with random thugs, and a cannibalistic best buddy. Add all that together with a sharp and vibrant visual style with enough violence and blood to keep the gorehounds happy, and you’ve got a serial killer revenge flick like no other, but one sure to please horrorheads of all kinds.
The Blu-ray by Magnet offers a fantast transfer of this film, but sadly very little else. There are a few deleted scenes and a behind the scenes featurette, but that’s it. I guess with the language barrier an audio commentary track with the director would be out of the question, but still a few more extras would have been nice.
Oh, I guess I should mention that this Blu-ray has both the original Korean dialog with English subtitles, and a dubbed English audio track. Therefore, even if you’re one of those people who say, “I hate subtitles movies, I don’t go to the movies to read,” you have no excuse not to see this very cool flick. If you’re like me and always saying that you would like to see something new, well then rejoice, your prayers have been answered with I Saw The Devil.