Koreans love revenge films and know how to do them well. Such is the case with Ji-Woon Kim‘s brutal cat and mouse thriller I Saw the Devil which features the legendary actor Min-ski Choi (Oldboy) as a ruthless serial killer who finds his sadistic match in Byung-Hun Lee, a secret service agent with a relentless fervor for what else, revenge. The film is brutal in it’s portrayal of violence, often times indulging in prolonged beatings and generous with blood splatter, but done in a kinetic fashion that will leave you gasping in shock. This movie is Oldboy cranked to 11 and not for the faint of heart.
The film opens with a haunting rape and murder of a young woman, who turns out to be the daughter of the chief of police. The nonchalant mannerisms of Choi embellishes the cruelty of his victims, as he stalks his prey from a school mini van with no remorse. However there is one thing he doesn’t anticipate, which is the rage that consumes the young woman’s husband, Lee, who also happens to be a secret service agent. Thus begins the twisted game at the center of the film, between predator and prey.
What distinguishes this film from others similar in nature, is the way that the suspense and action continually get more and more insane. There comes a point in the film where the audience is left wondering, how can this get any crazier, and then without hesitation it gets crazier. Kim, famous for The Tale of Two Sisters and The Good, The Bad and The Weird, demonstrates a mastery of blood fueled chaos and is able to constantly raise the stakes while keeping the pace of this 2 hour plus film like a freight train that has gone off the rails.
I Saw The Devil won’t be appetizing for everyone’s taste, but if you crave that certain kind of insanity revenge-filled flicks, it will definitely satisfy your craving. The performances are fantastic, the action frenetic and the tension between Choi and Lee is the kind of chemistry a director can only dream of. Unforgiving, brutal, violent and psychotic, this film will have you reeling from the impact of it’s images while contemplating the nature of what makes a revenge flick, in particular Korean revenge flicks, so damn entertaining.