I Saw the Devil 
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Country: South Korea
Brutal, disgusting and unbelievably violent.
In other words, another badass Korean revenge thriller.
I Saw the Devil personifies evil. First there is the villain, a batshit insane psychopath named Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi, aka Oldboy) who delights in murdering and raping young women. Actually, he doesn’t just murder them, he decapitates and dismembers them without showing even the slightest bit of remorse. He is one horrifying dude.
One snowy evening, Kyung-chul finds a woman stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. He offers to help, but the woman politely tells him that a tow truck is on the way. He sees this as an opportunity, however, and brutally attacks her, eventually killing her as well.
This leads us to evil personified, part two. It turns out that this woman’s fiancee is secret agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), another crazy motherfucker who vows to track the serial killer down and deliver the same amount of pain that he brought his victims. With the help of modern technology, Soo-hyun plants a tracking system on the murderer and begins to play a cruel game of cat-and-mouse with him, gradually maiming him along the way.
Yeah, it’s pretty fucked up.
The sheer amount of gore and violence in this film is something to behold, and it takes a strong stomach to make it through. The good news is that it doesn’t reach the levels of the popular American torture porn flicks; instead, it offers a meaningful storyline that feels like it could actually happen. Beyond messed up, but still believable (though I have to wonder if some of the characters could actually stay alive after the sickening head bashing they endure).
If you can tolerate the violence, there is a lot to like here. The movie is beautifully shot, with some truly stunning camerawork, and it has incredible acting. Min-sik Choi is completely insane as Kyung-chul, and he delivers an absolutely haunting performance that will stay with you for a long time. I was also quite impressed with Lee Byung-hun, who was tremendous as Soo-hyun. He shows a great deal of sadness after his fiancee’s death, but gradually changes into a tough-nosed motherfucker as he begins to slip into the mind of a monster. Powerful stuff.
I did have a couple of qualms with the movie. One, it runs a little too long, clocking in at a hefty 141 minutes. A good 20 minutes or so could have been taken out to make for better pacing. Also, what was up with the police in the film? They were acting as idiots most of the time, having no clue as to what was going on or how to handle things. The opening sequence shares evidence of this right away, as the police allow the media to go crazy and start taking pictures of a decapitated head in the ditch. What the fuck?
Still, minor issues aside, I Saw the Devil is a compelling movie, certainly one I will not soon be forgetting. This isn’t meant for everyone, obviously, but if you can deal with the excess brutality it is definitely worth looking into. As far as revenge flicks go, this is a great one. Now I need to dig into Jee-wong Kim’s back catalog.