I Saw the Devil

A violent serial killer is on the loose, stalking those who cannot protect themselves and brutally dispatching them. One victim, though, is the pregnant fiancée of a high ranking special agent who sets off on his own path of revenge against the killer. Revenge, it is said, is a dish best served cold and the morality of the police officer and his vengeance come into question in “I Saw the Devil.”

Laura's Review: B

When Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee) receives a call from his fiance telling him she's broken down on a remote road, he tells her to stay in her car, but that does not protect her from Kyung-Chul ("Oldboy's" Min-sik Choi), the serial killer who's found her stranded. Distraught, Soo-hyeon targets Kyung-Chul with a nasty revenge that escalates until he himself becomes the monster in "I Saw the Devil." Director Jee-woon Kim gave us the masterful "A Tale of Two Sisters," then a gleefully wacked spin on the spaghetti Western with "The Good, the Bad, the Weird." Now he goes just as over the top with his take on films like "Manhunter," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Seven," but while his film works as cult horror, this stylishly uber-violent battering ram of a movie is thematically stale and sloppy in its details. Still, the film is edgy and tense and against all odds Min-sik Choi finds humor in his dark psychology. At first, we don't understand what Soo-hyeon's game is. When he first tracks down Kyung-Chul, he averts the death of a school girl, beating the killer visciously. But he lets him go. This begins a series of catch and release and it becomes clear that Soo-hyeon is trying a Pavlov's dog experiement, using extreme aversion therapy to wear Kyung-Chul down. But Kyung-Chul doesn't go down easily, almost relishing the challenge. He even joins forces with another serial killer, a cannibal whom Soo-hyeon must also face. But Soo-hyeon's last plotted act just doesn't feel right - ironic perhaps, but uncharacteristic. Where Kyung-Chul's actions directly seared Soo-hyeon's emotions, Soo-hyeon's ultimate sadomasochistic retaliation impacts innocents. There are also jarring improbabilities like the chained victim who manages to soundlessly escape as her tormentor fiddles with a dead radio or the way Kyung-Chul mysteriously appears within an office after having left it. "I Saw the Devil" is beautifully shot, composed and scored, but its psychology is on shaky ground. That said, Jee-woon Kim may have gotten what he wanted with a 'hero' we can't invest in and a 'villain' who entertains.

Robin's Review: B