Review by Nathan Samdahl (B)
Easily one of the most brutally violent films I've seen in years, I Saw The Devil pulls no punches in its portrayal of revenge come full circle.
Korean director Kim ji-Woon, who created another one of my favorite Asian imports, A Tale of Two Sisters, shows he has improved with age as the film's direction pushes it way beyond the typical revenge-torture film. Particularly in the first half, the film is masterfully created, continuously testing the limits of how much the audience is willing to take. Each scene is crafted to deliver maximum tension and in some parts some genuine scares. I found my legs actually shaking towards the end of the film I was so tense.
The story, like many revenge tales, is fairly simple: A man seeks revenge against the serial killer who brutally killed his fiancé. Where the story deviates, though, is that while most revenge stories culminate with the confrontation of good and evil, in I Saw the Devil, the lead protagonist here actually finds and confronts his fiancé's killer pretty early on. Instead of slaughtering him on the spot, the man decides to beat the killer within an inch of his life before backing off. Using a tracking device he plants on the killer (I won't say how), the man continues to confront his nemesis at multiple points throughout the film, each time pummeling him and mangling him one piece at a time.
The director thankfully uses these repeated confrontations to infuse a little tongue-in-cheek humor into the proceedings (just a little bit though). By the end, it does seem that the film has taken an extra sequence or two to reach its climax. The man's desire to bring his revenge full circle on the killer leads to some implausible and convenient moments in the last act of the film.
The two leads, Lee Byung-hun (the fiancé) and Choi Min-sik (the killer), are both phenomenal. Lee Byung-hun's steely cool demeanor and incredible fighting skills are coupled to create one of the most compelling and badass horror-thriller film leads in recent memory. And Choi Min-sik is just plain scary, fully embodying the evil nature of his character.
This film is not for the weak of heart and even if you like horror films this may be tough (I had to look away more than once), but if you can get through it, I Saw The Devil is one of the most visceral horror film watching experiences you will have.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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