I Saw the Devil

By RodneyHatfieldJr for Reviews
I was flipping through one of my favorite streaming apps Tubi when I came across a film I liked but hadn’t watched in about 10 years.  I Saw the Devil. I watched it back when it first came out, and actually like it. I am not a fan of torture porn or revenge porn horror. But if it is story-driven, then that is a dog of a different color. I think torture/revenge horror crosses the line from entertainment to fetish, most people do. But this is one of those films that straddles the line enough to keep in firmly in the entertainment section.

I Saw the Devil is a 2010 South Korean film by director Jee-Woon Kim. Kim is famous for his film A Tale of Two Sisters. The story is about Kyung-Chul a dangerous psychopath serial killer. He has committed infernal serial murders in diabolic ways that one cannot even imagine and his victims range from young women to even children. The police have chased him for a long time but were unable to catch him. One day, Joo-Yeon, daughter of a retired police chief becomes his prey and is found dead in a horrific state. Her fiancé Soo-Hyun (Lee Byung-hun), a top-secret agent, decides to track down the murderer himself. He promises himself that he will do everything in his power to take bloody vengeance against the killer, even if it means that he must become a monster himself to get this monstrous and inhumane killer.

I Saw the Devil is one of the best samples of revenge-themed, violent thrillers that ever came out of South Korea. And that is saying something. And no I will not be spoiling things. I hate spoilers for movies, even 12-year-old movies.

What makes this film different is the unique presentation of good versus evil. We know Kyung-Chul, a sadistic murderer from the first scene. However, when Soo-Hyun finds out who he is, instead of arresting him, he decides to exact his revenge slowly. His decision initiates a relentless hunt between the two, with the roles of the hunter and the hunted changing back and forth. By the end, we are questioning if Soo-Hyun is good.

Another thing this film does differently is the way it goes about fulfilling revenge. Instead of finding and killing the person, Soo-Hyun lets him go a few times. Naturally, he hurts him in some way each time, but in allowing him to escape; Kyung kills more people. That makes you think about if Soo-Hyun is ultimately responsible since he allowed him to go free each time.

For you gore-hounds out there, you will be giddy. I Saw the Devil is a very violent film. From the initial scene to cannibalism, as well as the victimization of the opponents’ families. Violence is everywhere and is very graphic. In that fashion, the depiction of violent and sadistic scenes is intense and frequent, but Kim Jee-woon actually uses it to criticize violence and sadism, highlighting how despicable they are as concepts, particularly when they become actions. Violence with a lesson. But I still tensed up a few times.

However, the shining point to this film is the atmosphere and acting. The film benefits from Lee Mo-gae’s cinematography. He composes the film mostly in darkness, combined with a palette filled with blue tones, which manages to be equally vivid and gory. Lee Byung-hun as Soo-Hyun and Choi Min-sikas Kyung-Chul give an impressive one-on-one duel. Lee Byung-hun is impressive in his transformation from a lawful special agent to a sinister vigilante. Choi Min-sik is just evil. No other words are needed.

I Saw the Devil is a classic. If you are squeamish, then you might want to give it a pass. There are some intense scenes. But if you want to give this movie a try, head over to Tubi.com. They have both original and subbed versions. It is free but has like 8 commercials, which is nothing. Tubi (and Pluto) keeps on showing us you can have a quality streaming service for free.
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