Director: Jee-woon Kim
Starring: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi,
Running Time: 141mins
I Saw The Devil tells the story of Kim Soo-Hyun as he tracks down and attempts to exact revenge on the man who kidnapped and killed his fiancé. What follows is a tense and brutally visceral game of cat and mouse.
Kyung-chul is a damaged man. Driven in his pursuit of, and completely impassive in the act of, killing and dismembering his victims. It turns out that his most recent victim is the daughter of the police Chief and the fiancé of Kim, who happens to work for National Intelligence (a sort of Secret Service agency). In the aftermath of the discovery of her body parts, Kim takes time off from work and sets about seeking revenge after promising that he would make the culprit suffer as much as she did.
After using his contacts to narrow down the suspects to four, Kim works his way, unrelentingly, through the list to find the one responsible. Two are dealt with quite brutally, even through they weren’t guilty and we are next onto Kyung-chul. It turns out that Kyung-chul has a secret lair in his house where he butchers his victims and this is where Kim finds his fiancé’s engagement ring, cementing his suspicions this this is his guy.
Another brutal attack on an innocent woman, picked up in his innocent looking school transport minibus, and she is taken back to his place and brutalised and dismembered. Throughout these scenes Kyung-chul is completely impassive and that is probably one of the most shocking things, seeing such atrocities carried out with no emotional reaction whatsoever.
As Kim is closing in on Kyung-chul, another person is kidnapped. This time a schoolgirl is taken to a remote location. Just as Kyung-chul is about to rape her Kim shows up and interrupts, after an excellent fight scene Kim overcomes Kyung-chul and you think that it is all going to be over but this is just the start. Kim forces a GPS tracker and microphone device down Kyung-chul’s throat before letting him go with an additional broken wrist. This is the first switch in the assignment of hunter and hunted, of cat and mouse. Every time that Kyung-chul attempts to attack or force himself upon an innocent woman Kim, who has been tracking him, turns up and intercedes. Dishing out another beating along with some more drastic injuries. It is obvious that Kim is vastly superior in ability than Kyung-chul but the latter just never gives up, never stops following his desire to attack and destroy someone else.
The back and forth between the main two characters is electric from the first time they meet and it only gets better as the film progresses. Kyung-chul is so creepy and malevolent throughout, he simply oozes the control of someone who isn’t afraid to do anything at all to get his way. Kim starts out as the one in control, living the normal life but the longer the film goes on the more unhinged he becomes, the closer he becomes to descending onto the same level as Kyung-chul, dishing out violent beatings and horrific injuries, all for the sake of making him suffer. Who is the devil in this scenario? It isn’t as easy a question as you might think.
The ending is a superb culmination of the violence shown throughout and the differences between the two, one believing he is untouchable, that there is nothing that can be done to hurt him, the other remembering his humanity.
As films go this is another visually rich experience from Korean cinema, the colours are vivid and wonderful and jump off the screen. The pacing of the story and the action keeps coming for the entire length of the film, never really slowing but never racing off either, it just keeps moving along well. As with other Korean revenge-themed films there is plenty of action and gore and there is no attempt to hide it from the viewer, as any film of this ilk shouldn’t do.