Today, I wanted to review a movie. But after all of last night’s Oscar hoopla (for the record, I nailed 5 of my 6 predictions), I wanted to get away from awards season a bit. I didn’t go too far back in time, but other than that, I can safely say that I Saw the Devil is far removed your usual Best Picture fodder.
I Saw the Devil is the 2010 effort from director Kim Jee-woon. It is another entry into the South Korean revenge film genre. The film stars Lee Byung-hun opposite Oldboy‘s Choi Min-sik. The latter plays Kyung-chul, a sadistic serial killer. The former portrays Soo-hyun. Soo-hyun’s pregnant wife, Joo-yun, is murdered by Kyung-chul, which sets off Soo-hyun on a murderous rampage motivated by revenge. Along the way, he brings attention to the film’s title, and asks the viewer who is playing which role.
Jee-woon does a fantastic job of shooting the film. He adds a great deal of beauty to keep the viewer off-balance, like an early scene where Kyung-chul drags Joo-yun’s bloody, beaten body across the white snow. With all of the murder in the film (why are the other police officer content to sit idly by while all of this is happening?), there is some suspension of disbelief required to get through the film. But Jee-woon masterfully integrates a lot of realism into the film, and adds some emotional depth to the characters. And Choi Min-sik, of course, is just as fantastic here as he was in Oldboy.
This is certainly not a film for everyone. It is absolutely gruesome, more than most horror flicks (even though it’s more of a thriller than a horror movie). But if you have the stomach for it, I strongly suggest it. I have a difficult time tracking down films that can actually turn my insides. You’re not going to find a movie that’s both this unnervingly violent and this enjoyable.