Overview: A secret agent crosses the threshold between good and bad after his fiancée becomes another victim of a cannibalistic serial killer. Magnet Releasing; 2010; Rated R; 141 minutes
Revenge Intensified: Revenge films often showcase an unrelenting and horrific gruesomeness, but Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil takes it much further. The film showcases an escalation of the need for retribution as secret agent Soo-hyeon goes on the ultimate path of revenge after his pregnant fiancée falls victim to cannibalistic serial killer Kyung-chul. On this beaten path, Soo-hyeon obscures the line between the good and the bad, as he vows to make the serial killer’s life a hell more depraved that the one inflicted upon his wife. As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly hard to truly root for the “good guy,” as he catches, tortures, and releases his prey for more and more drastic rounds of his sadistic game of vengeance.
Despite terrifying realism that proves to be difficult to watch, the film still manages to entrance the viewer. This authentic look at revenge adds a level of unpredictability, making every move seem completely daunting, and every scene constricting and intense. I had to frequently remind myself to breathe. The film’s plot isn’t exactly new or innovative, but the execution and the graphic intensity push it to new depths, forging a painfully disturbing and unforgettable tale of revenge.
The Collision of Two Worlds: Within this dark and grisly portrayal of desperation, through various torture chambers and warped hopelessness, there can be found a semblance of juxtaposed beauty. The film blends two separate worlds; Soo-hyeon’s clean, procedural world and Kyung-chul’s visceral, gritty one become one and the same, further exemplifying our protagonist’s drastic metamorphosis.
The Bad vs. The Bad: I Saw the Devil creates a fascinating confusion when it comes to the justification for — and ramifications of — retaliation. We witness Soo-hyeon transform from a loving, hardworking man to a completely sadistic shadow of his past self. Despite being completely deserving of the punishment inflicted on him, Kyung-chul becomes an illustration of the gap between justice and vengeance. Viewers will wish he were behind bars rather than in the clutches of our “hero.” Revenge is something filmgoers readily thirst for, but when the lines blur as they do in I Saw the Devil, who is there left to root for?
Conclusion: I Saw the Devil is a brutal and gruesome, thrilling joyride through revenge-driven insanity. The movie provides two enthralling characters who brilliantly play off of one another to create a spine-tingling, cringe-inducing game of cat-and-mouse.