Never ever going to Korea now.
Secret agent Dae-hoon (Byung-hun Lee), discovers how far over the edge he will go in order to seek revenge after his fiancée is brutally slain by psychopathic serial killer Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi). With the police baffled by Kyung-chul’s murders, Dae-hoon decides to capture the killer, but his own increasing violence makes him wonder who the monster really is.
Before I get into this review let me just tell you that even before you think about checking this film out because of its cool poster and plot-line, let me warn you that this flick is VICIOUS. And when I put all CAPS for a word you know that means business.
When it comes to watching on-screen violence, I think I can tough it out through a lot but there is always one film that comes around and just has me cringing every 5 seconds. I can’t remember the last time that happened to me before this one but regardless of how much of a pansy I may be, this film is downright ruthless. This film does not leave anything up to our imagination and shows people that have no problem for the pain that they are causing, hell, they actually gain pleasure from it. The film has these long extended sequences of total torture and each and every torture sequence basically one-ups the one that came before it.
The story itself starts off pretty straight-forward but it soon starts to get very twisty, edgy, and totally suspenseful where I had no idea what the hell was going to happen next and right when I thought I knew, I was proven wrong and I was glad to be. It’s not very often that you can get a flick that combines elements of a slasher, horror, revenge, and bad cop flick and keep us guessing until the last shot is off the screen. I guess America just blows when it comes to making any type of revenge flicks, or maybe it’s just that we don’t have a director like Ji-Woon Kim around here. I mean what this guy does with a plot that seems like it’s over in about 30 minutes, and stretch it to about 2 hours longer without ever losing steam, is a true showing of a great director and I hope that Hollywood doesn’t even try to touch this material because they are already trying to with ‘Oldboy’ and that obviously doesn’t seem to be working out.
The film may seem like just another torture porn/horror flick but what does separate it from others like ‘Hostel’ or ‘Saw’ is that it actually has a story that seems believable, with characters that seem real as if you could be walking side-by-side with them on the streets one day. The vigilante detective named Soo-hyun, played by Byung-Hun Lee, is a guy that means business right from the matter and seems so smart, so determined, and so effin’ cool that every time he’s on-screen you can’t help but think he’s going to kick ass either way. It also helps that the guys girl gets killed right away so right away we feel something for him even as he does keep on doing some more and more terrible shit to this one dude, but hey with a cool-ass leather jacket that he has and wears the whole entire film, you can’t help but root for him.
However, the villain named Kyung-chul, played by Min-Sik Choi, is the one character that we keep on remembering the most. This character is a whole new-form of evil that I don’t think I’ve seen much of often in films. The guy doesn’t care about who or even what he kills, he’ll kill for no reason other than just to do it, he is best-friends with a cannibal, and laughs in your face as he’s getting ready to hack off your limbs. Seriously, this guy is evil right in-front-of-our-eyes and the worst part about it is that he feels like a real person with all of the terrible things he does and just how his whole demeanor seems to be. It’s not until the end where we get to fully see this guy in his prime stage of evil as we almost see him come to terms with all of the terrible things he has done, until he gives us all a little speech about how much of an evil asshole he is and that he knows he is, and he doesn’t care what happens to him because he will still be laughing even when he’s rotting away in hell. Talk about a real evil dude that I just hope I never meet or see in my life.
What really sets this film apart from just being another “bad guy vs. good guy” flick is that by the end, we start to really question who actually is good and who actually is bad. We see how one another gets revenge on each other and at first it seems reasonable but once they keep on extending the pain and anguish, we start to really wonder when the line should be drawn. The message we get is pretty plain and clear by the end. The film is all about how even though revenge may seem reasonable at times, it can also serve even more vengeance which then brings up more and more evil within all of the heinous acts. It’s pretty blurry by the end of the flick who was actually the good guy and who was the bad, but what I can say is that even though we never get a full sense of who did the right thing, we still know that evil always comes back to bite ya in the ass no matter who you are.
Consensus: I Saw the Devil may be a little hard for most to watch but for others, this is an energetic, original, tension-filled, fun, and perfectly-acted and directed Korean flick that does many things with such a simple premise that no American film has been able to do in the year of 2011.