Directed by: Kim Jee-woon
There are two films I never want to see. Spike Lee’s remake of ‘Oldboy’ and Tim Burton’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. I simply love the originals too much. I wonder if other film fans have taken similar action in response to remakes. If you have avoided a remake purely because you love the original film so much then please do get in touch @iscfc.
Anyway, last month I heard that plans are afoot to remake ‘I Saw The Devil’. I suppose this review is a call to those who haven’t yet seen the original to watch it, and I guess if you like it, then maybe you will boycott the remake whenever it is released. But be warned ‘I Saw The Devil’ is an unsettling, tough to stomach revenge film. It’s not nice. In fact it is downright nasty and vicious.
‘I Saw The Devil’ is a classic South Korean revenge thriller. A special agent’s fiancé is slain by a serial killer named Kyung-chul (played by Choi Min-sik) who preys on vulnerable young women. The special agent, who is called Soo-hyun, tracks down his fiance’s killer and toys with him, like a cat playing with a mouse. As the film goes on the line between who is good and who is evil blurs significantly as Soo-hyun becomes more and more deranged himself.
The clever thing about this movie is that it contains all the hallmarks of a good South Korean film, the melodrama, the Shakespearean tragedy, and perhaps more controversially, I would also commend the film’s innovative display of violence. The fight scenes between the killer and agent are choreographed presenting this almost balletic beauty of bloodlust.
Kyung-chul is a snivelling pathetic serial killer. He drives a school bus, and lures his victims by playing the Good Samaritan. Offering to assist women waiting by the bus stop in the rain, or in the case of Soo-hyun’s fiancé whose car had broken down. He’s an opportunist killer, who strikes whenever the victim presents themselves to him as he tours around. Kyung-chul just happened one day to murder the daughter of a Police chief and the fiancé of a special agent and that leads to his downfall.
Soo-hyun goes about tracking his fiance’s killer by basically going down a list of the most prevalent deviant sex offenders in Seoul. He goes beyond traditional Police methods, and assaults each person on the list until he comes across the man who murdered his fiancé. It leads to a showdown in a greenhouse situated on a field in the outskirts of the city, as Soo-hyun comes face to face with Kyung-chul.
The film could have ended there. Soo-hyun could’ve killed Kyung-chul. Instead Soo-hyun perversely decides to prolong the suffering. He inserts a tracking device orally into Kyung-chul, and leaves him in a shallow grave. Kyung-chul is left confused, but despite being battered, a little broken and bruised, he attempts to continue his reign of terror. Only this time, before he can harm his next victim, Kyung-chul is interrupted by Soo-hyun who continues physically and psychologically breaking him down.
In what otherwise might be a horrible piece of torture porn, director Kim Jee-woon is able to add some very dark humour to proceedings. At various points along the film there is some awkward laugh out moments, for example Kyung-chul’s clumsiness in locating his murder weapon in the taxi, and later in the movie his interactions with a trashy cannibalistic serial killer couple. ‘I Saw The Devil’ has depth, it could be because of Choi Min-sik’s magnetic performance, it might also be because of masterful cinematography. Above all else it is a film that illustrates the complexity of evil.