I Saw the Devil (2010)
Director: Ji-woon Kim
Cunning and vicious serial killer Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi) chose the wrong dude to mess with; ya see he just got on secret agent and master ass kicker Dae-hoon's (Byung-hun Lee) bad side; and now he's gonna pay for it... over and over and over again.
I am a big fan of Koran filmmaker Ji-woon Kim; A Bittersweet Life and A Tale of Two Sisters are to my personal favorites (The Good, the Bad and the Weird had good moments but didn't do it for me overall). Every time I see one of that dude's films, I always think; its a matter of time before Hollywood snatches him up and he goes on to whoop that tail in La La Land. He just seems to have a sensitivity that would translate well to US screens; think a Koran David Fincher. And it seems that it's happening soon via the LAST STAND, starring Liam Neeson. Am happy for him and I hope he retains all that he is via the transition (remember what happened to Hideo Nakata when he went to the States... nough said). But before we find out how Ji-woon Kim's Big Hollywood Adventure will turn out; lets tackle his newest Koran celluloid vice grip; I SAW THE DEVIL
I SAW THE DEVIL was a mean spirited, gory, highly engaging and marvelously shot descent into the darkness that lives in two men's hearts. Ji-woon Kim' grabbed me by the lapel and thought me a bitch slap lesson old school the moment the film opened with a visceral and brutal sequence. Right there, I knew I was in for something special. He then kept the beating going by way of his stylish and moody visuals; the man has quite the eye for the morbidly gorgeous (loved how he shot the snow and the mist) and affecting imagery. His on-the-move camera greased me good as well; am talking sweeping crane shots, potent traveling shots (wait till you see the one that spins around a car while a double murder takes place...wow) and fly angles. His powerful use of slow motion and a knack at using silence to up the impact of a scene were the cherry on top of this red wet sunday. This guy's a genius! Pure and simple. And thankfully, for the most part, the screenplay was up to par with the master behind the lens. I SAW THE DEVIL basically became James Bond versus John Doe (from Seven). A twisted game of cat and mouse between two hombres who have LOST THEIR MINDS, each in their own individual ways.
Thematically; the picture was at its core a revenge opus but with the heart of a horror film and some pinches of action cinema slapped in there. It also played up, to a higher level the norm, the main theme that comes with the vigilante subgenre; how far can the hero go before he becomes the monster that he is hunting down? Our good guy's character arc here was a compelling one to say the least; and as the end credits rolled and the tale was over, I felt for the dude. Violence wise; you will see blood here, mark my words, as this mofo didn't shy away from not only being graphic, but out of line. Amidst this sea of killings, beatings, bludgeons, torturing, there was cannibalism, rape, a misogynist streak and hints of pedophilia at play. Yup a full, rotten meal. Yeehaw! Taking us through this horror-coaster ride was two incredible actors; Ji-woon Kim regular Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life) and OldBoy star Min-sik Choi. WOW. Now that's acting! Byung-hun Lee owned the screen with his emotional yet contained and mad with pain display (his black jacket also owned me, gotta get one). On his end Min-sik Choi should get an Oscar nod for playing such a vile yet charismatic nut ball. Every time both men shared the screen together, it would explode with intensity.
Add to all that GOLD a varied score that hit the spot, a slew of tightly choreographed and executed mano et mano fight scenes (Byung-hun Lee has crazy skills) and you get a keeper; probably the best serial killer picture since SEVEN. Any peeves with this sucka? A couple. Fifteen minutes of clock time could have easily been shaved off this one's twat. Some scenes were unnecessary and made the movie overlong. Furthermore, the script cheated in terms of it going where it needed to go and our hero getting the 411 from peeps who logically, couldn't have the info. I had to apply a pinch of suspension of disbelief. With that spat, I SAW DEVIL'S weaknesses didn't come close in tarnishing what was an amazing motion picture with the bulk of its bases covered with a sledgehammer. Sick of the usual horror Hollywood bullshit? See this DEVIL and scream with joy on your way down to hell.
A butchered corpse, beheading, severed head, knife through the cheek, countless bloody bludgeoning, a cut up Achilles tendon, head bashed by a fire extinguisher and more! Its a violence and gore party over here!
T & A
We get some female flesh, but not within arousing contexts. The ladies get a dude's ass...so dive in gals!
I SAW THE DEVIL was a badass, cruel, acted through the roof (both leads powned me with their superior showcases) and at times moving piece of horror art. It sported top notch visuals, gore galore and a rebellious attitude that I respected. Now that I think of it, it was almost 3 movies rolled into one. A revenge flick, a serial killer movie and an action film... and better yet.... it all gelled effortless to be one hell of a heavy cinematic puncher. Yes it was a bit too long and the script cheated a couple of time, hence some suspension of disbelief had to be applied; but overall, that was peanuts when pitted against the EXCELLENCE that was the bulk of this movie. Which is why I am giving it a perfect score, even though it wasn't perfect. See I SAW THE DEVIL and see a MASTER at work. NOTE: If anybody knows where I can buy Byung-hun Lee's jacket in the movie... hook me up! That was a money ass coat yo!
Byung-hun Lee broke in the US market last year; he played Storm Shadow in GI JOE. Good for him!
The Korea Media Rating Board had Ji-woon Kim recut his movie for its theatrical release. He had to remove some violence to not get a "Restricted" rating, which would have stopped the film's release in theaters and on DVD. I saw the uncut cut...thank Zeus!