I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boatda) (2011)
Directed by Jee-woon Kim
"I will kill you when you are in the most pain. When you're in the most pain, shivering out of fear, then I will kill you. That's a real revenge. A real complete revenge."
It wouldn't be the same if Korea didn't release an awesome revenge flick this year. But surprisingly they released 2 stellar revenge movies with Bedevilled being the other. I Saw the Devil is on lots and lots of Best of 2011 lists and deservedly so. It's a top notch, blood soaked crime thriller that echoes the pantheon of awesome Korean revenge but takes a step into a whole new frontier. You're not just given a rinse and repeat formula, oh no. In this dark and dreary tale, Jee-woon Kim serves up a curveball that will befuddle all your senses, pull your emotions and have your jaw completely on the floor.
What separates I Saw the Devil from its American counterparts is a sense of humanity that gets loss at our most vulnerable. The white knight becomes dark. And the level of grey is maximized to give the audience a decision to evaluate who is exactly the "devil" in this film.
I haven't questioned my loyalties in a while but I Saw the Devil is like a personality test for all those involved. Revenge is a dish best served on a heaping pile of decapitated heads and blood splattered walls and floors. I wouldn't want it any other way.
I SAW THE DEVIL is a shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished tale of murder and revenge. The embodiment of pure evil, Kyung-chul is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. On a freezing, snowy night, his latest victim is the beautiful Juyeon, daughter of a retired police chief and pregnant fiancée of elite special agent Soo-hyun. Obsessed with revenge, Soo-hyun is determined to track down the murderer, even if doing so means becoming a monster himself. And when he finds Kyung-chul, turning him in to the authorities is the last thing on his mind, as the lines between good and evil fall away in this diabolically twisted game of cat and mouse.
Simple premise really. Fiancee of special agent Soo-hyun is killed by a most depraved serial killer Kyung-chul, who makes Hannibal Lecter look like Mickey fuckin Mouse. In his quest for revenge, Soo-hyun methodically tracks down the scum of Seoul until he finally meets our fucked up Dexter. But death would be too quick for Kyung-chul so Soo-hyun decides to turn the tables as the cat is now the mouse. It's this twist that breaks the mold. It's executed brilliantly and the path these two leave are dead bodies, scarred victims, confused cops and massive beatings not seen since Oldboy.
The type of revenge Soo-hyun implements is almost as methodical as a serial killer. It's calculated, it's wicked and it's fucked up beyond what I can describe. But clearly this Korean revenge film could have delved into mucho sadness but during the cat and mouse scenes, it echoes a Tom and Jerry vibe. The violence is insanely sadistic but in almost over the top cartooney way. We get head bashing, bag suffocation, Achilles heel trauma, random pipe beatings and mouth trauma. Really in all this mayhem, I found myself chuckling at the ACME level smashes to the sternum.
But what drives I Saw the Devil is clearly it's two main pro/ant-gonists.
Let's start off with Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi). He is a serial killer who has no morality whatsoever. We see him hunt women and kill them without any remorse. Choi is absolutely brilliant displaying a performance that shows a man who in this midst of survival and second chances remains as evil as can be. True evil killers, similar to a Category III HK flick villain are what Kyung-chul embodies. He is a wolf and clearly he sees all people as his sheep. Even though he is bruised, battered and rundown, he still unleashes his teeth. It's unbelievable. Instinct would tell you that once you got the shit beaten out of you, you'd give up. But it's Kyung-chul's perseverance that is a trait that no other serial killer on screen has ever shown.
With Soo-hyun, he slowly devolves, losing his humanity in his quest for vengeance. Like Ahab in Moby Dick, all he cares about is slaying the White Whale that crippled him. His fiancee's death, she was the daughter of a former police chief, has driven him into madness and Byung-hun Lee plays him with a calm robotic quality. All his anger and sadness are buried deep and in the film's final act does it unleash into a wicked but clever way. Great performances by these actors.
I Saw the Devil is stylish, punch in the gut of what revenge cinema can do to you. Your emotions sway and the basic instinct to give "an eye for an eye" are something we all have thought about. Like it's well known predecessor Oldboy, it has a twist and a rawness we Western audiences hardly see in are Hollywood CGI blockbusters. It's why the Dark Knight seemed to work for us when it gave us the same dilemma.
Let's make sure that I Saw the Devil gets the accolades it deserves. It's a bloody, gore splatterific opera of revenge cinema at it's sharpest. A movie that leaves you thinking of what YOU would do if faced with the same situation. If you had superhero, CIA-tech and awesome fight skills like Soo-hyun, would you do the same? Are we all capable of being evil when we believe it's justified?
Who exactly is the devil in the film? Maybe it's actually all of us idly applauding this masterful and brilliant film of 2011.
Victim boobies are creepy to look at
So much gore and splatter if you blinked, you'd miss a decap
Our killer makes a discovery in the bathroom
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
See this bad boy ASAP. It's out on Blu-Ray and DVD released via Magnet Releasing. I still have chills thinking about that ending. Fuckin brutal.
Check out the trailer.