I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)
Brutally violent Korean thriller is well made and has many effective and intense sequences, though one may have a hard time with the direction this blood soaked thriller takes one of it’s main characters, although the moral breakdown of that character is basically the point of Park Hoon-jung’s script. The story finds special intelligence agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) seeking revenge against serial killer Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) who brutally murders his pregnant fiancé. The police can’t pin the crime on him, but Soo-hyun goes outside the law to get proof and track him down. Instead of killing him or turning the vile Kyung-chul in, he let’s him go and continues to track him while the sicko continues to kill, only so Soo-hyun can continually attack him, cause him pain, then let him go again. While the causing him pain and suffering part… Kyung-chul is a monster and deserves it… makes sense,it’s hard to believe Soo-hyun would allow him to continue having the opportunity to keep killing others. Many innocents die so Soo-hyun can play his game of vengeful cat and mouse and he seems like too good a man to allow the murder of innocent people, just so he can satisfy his thirst for revenge despite his loss and pain. This strategy also allows Kyung-chul to have the opportunity to turn the tables as he increasingly becomes amused with the game of the hunt and decides to play along.
Still, it does give Director Ji-woon Kim the chance to graphically show us the depths to which people can sink when driven by grief and revenge, as the difference between Soo-hyun and Kyung-chul blurs increasingly with each savagely violent set piece. Kim crafts quite an intense downward spiral for his main protagonist as Soo learns how to be a monster from a man who enjoys being one. Despite the lapses in logic, the game between hunter and prey does get quite involving. The acting is very good from it’s cast, especially from it’s two intense leads, Lee and Choi, and the cinematography can be beautiful despite the gruesome nature of the film.
An interesting movie if you can stomach the violence and the film does get quite graphic and brutal. How much you are willing to believe a good, loving man can be driven to become a vicious monster to gain revenge, will determine how much you can go along with it’s story. The film is fascinating, despite not totally convincing one that an honorable man like Soo-hyun would allow so many innocents to be harmed, just so he could play games with the dangerous Kyung-chul. Then again, that seems to be the whole point of this grim but involving thriller…that revenge may not be worth the price it extracts from one’s soul. Highly but cautiously recommended as this is a brutally violent and intense thriller.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) ball peen hammers.