29 April 2011
I SAW THE DEVIL- Review
In the vein of other revenge thrillers, a popular genre in Korea, we find a man who loses a loved one to a vicious murderer. Soo-hyeon is a secret agent whose pregnant fiancee is killed by the sadistic Kyung-chul. Taking two weeks' leave from work, he decides to track down Kyung-chul himself, but rather than taking vengeance forthwith, he begins an increasingly savage game of catch and release.
I don't know that I Saw The Devil is the goriest film ever made, as some have called it, but it's understandable that 144 minutes of what must certainly be the goriest film of 2011 seems like a bigger deal. For 144 minutes, it's surprisingly fast-paced and zippy. The difficulty for some will be that it's also rather stabby, hammer-y and choppy as well. The blood pours, flows, drizzles, squirts, gushes in a way that obscures many potentially more violent films from memory.
It's effectively a black comedy, though obviously splattered sporadically with red. The difficulty is that every now and then, the supporting characters, who are as satellites in this gory game of cat-and-mouse, will stop the action dead to refer to Nietzsche. The "He Who Fights Monsters" trope is easy to swallow just as long as characters don't stand around and talk about it. The character of Soo-hyeon is also another of those revenge movie protagonists with little personality to get us behind him.
Of course, after the opening scene, in which his fiancee meets her untimely and painful end, we want Hyung-chul to get his comeuppance. It's just hard to care about Soo-hyeon because he's nothing so complex as the film's Nietzschean musings. So often these films forget to install a personality. Motivation goes some of the way, but without personality, it does amount to 144 minutes of hard violence, sometimes from a deranged killer who we definitely don't like, and also from a protagonist we're meant to like but who, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, is actually "just this guy, you know?"
I Saw The Devil is now showing in limited release nationwide, and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 9th.
If you've seen I Saw The Devil, why not share your comments below?
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.