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I Saw The Devil

Choi Min-sik as Kyung-chu in I saw The Devil

Review by Tim Carson

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

I Saw The Devil is a Korean revenge thriller that required major re-editing before it could even be released in Korea. The Korean film rating board thought it had scenes that “severely damaged the dignity of human values”. That’s not far from the truth and the film is certainly violent and brutal, however, it’s no more gruesome than films like Saw or Hostel.

Naturally, the film won’t be to everyone’s tastes but it does have much too enjoy and admire among the blood and guts.

The film stars Choi Min-sik (Old-Boy) as Kyung-chu, a serial killer who finally gets into trouble when he kidnaps and kills the pregnant fiancé of a secret agent Soo-hyun, played by Lee Byung-hun from The Good, The Bad and The Weird). The serial killer soon becomes the hunted rather than the hunter as Soo-hyun uses as his secret agent gadgets and training to exact bloody revenge on him.

It’s a course of action that escalates into an orgy of violence as Soo-hyun caputres, tortures and then releases Kyung-chu in the process becoming as vicious and cruel as the killer he’s trying to punish.

Director Kim Ji-woon, who brought us The Good, The Bad and The Weird, rather than giving us a straight-forward hero and villain blurs that line as Soo-hyun turns as violent as sadistic as his prey. It’s a bleak examination of evil and revenge and whether a course of action like Soo-hyun’s can bring peace or whether it just results in more violence and pain.

The answer is fairly obvious and that’s the downside of the film as it moves towards a conclusion that is clear from about half-way through. From that moment the film loses the drive and tension it had built so cleverly in the first half.

If you can stand the violence then there are some exceptional scenes. The action sequences as the two men face of against each other are brilliantly choreographed and the opening sequence, when the serial killer claims his first victim, is stunningly filmed against a snowy backdrop. Another plus is the performance of Choi Min-sik who is charismatically horrific as the remorseless serial killer.

All in the all the film is a disappointment it starts wonderfully, if ferociously, and builds a tense show-down between the secret agent and the serial killer. From then on, however, it gets a little repetitive and Korea becomes a country seemingly populated with serial killers and freaks. It is beautifully filmed to the end but that ending is too obvious and disappointing.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 141mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 9, 2011