June 03rd, 2011

I Saw the Devil

Runtime: 141 mins | Directors: Ji-woon Kim, Kim Jee-woon

Review By Dan Collacott

'You don't have to become a monster to defeat a monster'

Revenge and obsession has been a watermark of Korean film thrillers in recent years, in fact they have their own sub genre. I Saw the Devil extends this legacy - building upon the foundations already laid by films such as Oldboy and more recently The Man from Nowhere.

The seemingly familiar tale of revenge begins when twisted serial-killer Kyung-chul (Oldboy's Vhoi Min-sik) unknowingly murders the pregnant fiancé of government secret agent Kim Soo-hyeon (The Good the Bad and the Weird's Byung-hun Lee). Soo-hyeon makes a promise to his dead love to make her killer Kyung-chul suffer 100,000 times more than she did. Carrying out that promise Soo-hyeon seeks to painfully and systematically destroy his enemy, hunting, catching and then releasing him so he can inflict more damage.  A cracked window into the life of Kyung-chul accompanies the revenge plot thread, sustaining interest until the pace quickens when the whole bloody situation begins to turn and unravel. In contrast we find out little about
Soo-hyeon's background, but even as you struggle to empathise with his actions - the rawness of his pain and torment still scratches at your soul.

The film's moral compass is all over the place and all the normal elements of a crime thriller are blurred and questioned as the cat and mouse game threatens to tear out the still beating heart of the story. Ji-woon Kim's film is a superbly dark and twisted tale, leaving the audience as appalled by the heroes actions as they are with the killers, the ultimate question at the end is 'who really is the monster?'

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