I Saw The Devil review

REVENGE. Does it change a man? And must that man become a monster to catch a monster?

Just two of the many questions posed by director Jee-woon Kim in this deliciously dark psychological thriller.

How does a husband deal with the horrific tragedy of his wife being murdered and chopped up by a serial killer? It’s ground that has been well-covered in film the world over but this time. In this film. It’s not a typical revenge thriller.

Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee) is an intelligence agent. He’s on the phone to his wife Joo-yeon (San-ha Oh) as she waits for roadside assistance for a flat tyre. However, after ending the call to go to work, she is beaten half to death, taken to a remote location and dismembered by Kyung-Chul (Min-sik Choi).

Once her body is discovered Kim Soo vows to avenge her death by finding the man responsible and inflicting the same pain on him that he feels.

When the grieving husband finally realises who he’s after the pace shifts up a gear and the film switches to a twisted game of cat and mouse that will churn your stomach and leave you cowering behind the sofa as the violence ramps up and the blood flows.

Not content with just getting his revenge in one fell swoop – Kim Soo makes the conscious decision to mete out his vengeance in stages, playing mind games with Kyung-Chul.

Everything builds to a crescendo with a finale that will leave viewers feeling like they’ve been punched in the gut.

As stated earlier, films about serial killers are ten-a-penny, but what we get on screen with Byung-hun Lee (The Good, The Bad, The Weird) and Min-sik Choi (Oldboy) is actors willing to throw themselves into their respective roles and executing it perfectly.

It’s easy to feel sympathy for Byung-hun’s character just as it’s easy to be repulsed by the beast Choi creates. However, while all this is happening, the man Kim Soo was before his wife was murdered slowly disappears as he focuses all his attention on getting his revenge. And it’s these acts of vengeance that ultimately put other people in danger.

As for Choi? He has made the role of ‘nutcase’ his own and he puts everything into making Kyung-Chul a truly disgusting character who fears nothing and no-one.

Both men are willing to push each other’s buttons and play with the boundaries of what normal folk would call “crossing the line”.

There are even moments of light relief during the dark periods but they are few and far between.

Ultimately, I Saw The Devil is a tale of one man’s descent into controlled madness to avenge the death of a loved one. While not original, it’s an exhilarating thrill-ride that is bloody brilliant.

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