I Saw the Devil

I Saw the Devil, the latest Korean revenge thriller, is worse than torture porn. It’s Saw without any moral imperative. It offers pure, uninterrupted bloodshed without anything interesting to think about. The shame is that many moviegoers will go into it expecting a work of art along the lines of the excellent Mother or The Housemaid, and many independent cinemas will promote it as such. But this isn’t an art film. It’s a violence film. Plain and simple.

To his credit, Min-sik Choi (Oldboy) makes for one of the most sadistic movie villains in recent memory. He plays a serial killer who feasts on beautiful young women. But the stalker becomes the stalkee when his latest victim’s fiancee, a secret agent played by Byung-hun Lee (The Good, the Bad, the Weird), comes after him for revenge. Lee uses the “catch and release” method of torture, beating the his fiancee’s killer within an inch of his life before assuring his safety so he can start again the next day. Repeat about 4 times and there’s your movie.

This is supposedly done to inflict the maximum amount of pain before killing him, but keeping the killer alive also spares the lives of several more victims and makes his quest for retribution less than admirable. The whole point of the film is that there is no “good guy” or “bad guy” at this point, but it I find it easy to lose interest when both characters are this morally reprehensible.

Before ending this review I’d just like to say that although I can’t speak for the quality of the Korean law enforcement system, it can’t possibly be as bad as I Saw the Devil makes it out to be. The movie comes to a moment when the killer tells authorities that he will turn himself in, but only after he does “something.” Would you believe that they don’t think to send a single officer to the home of Lee’s parents? Lee’s father tells him in the film that “revenge is for the movies.” Apparently common sense is not.

4/10

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