I Saw the Devil (2010)
If you’ve seen Korea’s awe-inspiring 2003 export Oldboy, you know actor Min-sik Choi can take a beating. He proves his masochistic mettle again in I Saw the Devil.
Choi plays Kyung-Chul, a predator who picks on the wrong guy’s fiancé.
That grieving fiancé Soo-hyeon Kim is played by Byung-hun Lee (The Magnificent Seven), whose restrained emotion and elegant good looks perfectly offset Choi’s disheveled explosion of sadistic rage, and we spend 2+ hours witnessing their wildly gruesome game of cat and mouse.
Director Jee-woon Kim, working with Hoon-jung Park’s screenplay, breathes new life into the serial killer formula. Seven years earlier he helmed the deep, murky and intensely female horror of Tale of Two Sisters, but Devil breathes masculinity.
With the help of two strong leads, he upends the old “if I want to catch evil, I must become evil” cliché. What they’ve created is a percussively violent horror show that transcends its gory content to tell a fascinating, if repellant, tale.
Kyung-Chul – part time school bus driver, full time psychopath – butchers Kim’s gal, but rather than killing the murderer when he gets the chance, Kim beats him within an inch of his life (in very graphic fashion), then implants a microphone and tracking device. Regardless of the mayhem this lunatic will unleash as soon as he recovers from his wounds, Kim’s content to simply wait, follow, and beat him up again.
Park’s plot takes a number of unexpected, even absurd, turns. It’s as if this particular movie stops off quickly to visit a couple of completely separate horror films. The result doesn’t always work, but it certainly shakes up expectations.
Truth be told, beneath the grisly, far-too-realistic violence of this unwholesome bloodletting is an undercurrent of honest human pathos – not just sadism, but sadness, anger, and the most weirdly dark humor.
If you can see past the outrageously violent images onscreen, you might notice some really fine acting and nimble storytelling lurking inside this bloodbath.
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