A serial killer (Min-sik Choi) makes a serious error in judgement when selecting his latest victim in an opportunistic fashion, as it transpires her fiancée is a special agent (Byung-hun Lee), who begins a campaign of cat and mouse chases that he hopes will lead to bloody vengeance.
To this reviewer’s mind, director Jee-woon Kim is a latter day master who refuses to be confined to any one genre. His films never fail to be edgy (to put it mildly) and are amongst the best examples in the genres that they fit in to. The Quiet Family is a pitch-black family comedy/drama, A Tale Of Two Sisters is a masterful horror, A Bittersweet Life is a no holds barred gangster flick and The Good, The Bad and The Weird is an action packed Eastern-Western.
What Kim’s movies have in common with many a Korean film in general is an absence of predictability. I would defy anyone to accurately guess where any of his films are headed from one minute to the next, which adds no end of intrigue, leading to fantastic results.
But therein lies the challenge of reviewing I Saw The Devil. It absolutely works best when you know nothing about it going in, and as such I must keep this review vague and urge anyone reading to look into the film as little as possible before viewing.
So, firstly, those of a squeamish disposition should steer clear, Jee-woon Kim’s first foray into the serial killer sub-genre is a brutal, brutal affair. Fans of his past work will be quite aware of the levels of violence Kim is capable of, but I Saw The Devil surpasses them all.
Though you think you may know all the basic formulas for a serial killer movie, unless you have seen the Koreans’ take on the theme you are mistaken. Unfortunately Devil was piped to the post in both content and feel by equally good Korean serial killer films The Chaser and Memories Of Murder, and some of the story points stretch credulity, but somehow these things aren’t to its detriment, its sheer audacity inviting forgiveness.
The acting is top drawer. The two leads, Min-sik Choi (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) and Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life, The Good, The Bad and The Weird), as killer and chaser respectively, are just a joy to behold, handling both the larger than life and nuanced emotional aspects of the script perfectly.
The climax of the film will leave you with a lot to chew on and no doubt spark loads of discussion with friends and fellow viewers. I simply can’t recommend it enough.
B+ grade – for originality
A grade – for storytelling
A grade – for acting
A grade – for violence
Overall grade – A
I Saw The Devil is released on region 1 DVD and Blu-ray on May 10, 2011 courtesy of Magnet, and region 2 DVD and Blu-ray on May 9, 2011 courtesy of Optimum Asia.