Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I Saw the Devil

I'm continuing to explore foreign films and the other night I watched a whopper. 2010's I Saw the Devil is a brutal Korean slasher/revenge film (I don't want to say "horror" even though it is horrifying at times) and also an epic one with a run time of two and a half hours. I know the reputation of a few Korean flicks, but I'd had no experience watching one so I couldn't say for sure. Well, folks, that reputation is justly earned as far as this film is concerned. This isn't a cheesy Hollywood-fest where you root for the killer to kill the half-naked bimbos running around in screwed up ways. No, this is a legitimately intense and trauma-inducing film where you desperately want the (mostly) female victims to escape and for the killer to get what is coming to him.

The killer is a guy named Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik in a chilling performance that could go toe to toe with a lot of American screen villains from Lecter to Joker) and he is doing his thing as the movie starts out. He captures, assaults, and then butchers a young pregnant woman with almost no change in facial expression. Why does he do this terrible thing? Because he wants to. And he does this kind of thing quite a bit. 

This time is different, though. The pregnant woman is the fiance of a guy named Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) and he just happens to be a secret agent with the National Intelligence Service. After catching a glimpse of his beloved's severed head, Soo-hyun decides to go on an epic quest to kick ass and take revenge on the guy who did it. But how can he find Kyung-chul? 

With a little help from Squad Chief Jang (the father of Soo-hyun's fiance), Soo-hyun discovers four pictures of four possible suspects. One of those is a picture of Kyung-chul. After a little process of elimination the real games begin. 

Soo-hyun doesn't just want revenge though because he catches up with Kyung-chul easily enough and beats the shit out of him. No, he wants to make Kyung-chul suffer as his Joo-yun suffered. He wants to make the evil Kyung-chul learn true fear before he dies. 

So Soo-yun stop short of killing him and plants an NIS chip in the body of the killer so he can track his every move and hear his every word. Then he leaves Kyung-chul alone with an envelope of cash. Prey just isn't prey unless they can afford to be on the run. 

But this is a dangerous game and Kyung-chul is a durable and bull-headed guy. As well as a fucked in the head killer. Fear isn't going to come easy. Maybe not at all. 

While this movie does have a long run time for one of its type the hours do pass by quickly once the game begins. Sometimes things become a little too far fetched (I mean, just how much of a beating can these two guys take in such a short time and still be living let alone chasing each other?), but the pace is so fast and the film is presented so well that any bending of the rules of reality is a forgivable offense. 

The director of this fine film Kim Ji-woon (who also made his first directorial effort with the recent Arnold Schwarzenegger pic The Last Stand) is definitely now on my list of directors to look out for. 

Lee Byung-hun is also getting some recognition in America after his roles in the two G.I. Joe movies (which I haven't seen but will probably soon now) and Red 2 (I suppose I'll have to watch the first one before I can see this one). If you haven't heard of him yet then you will. If you watch I Saw the Devil then you'll definitely want to hear more about him. 

Choi Min-sik doesn't seem like the type who wants to jump on the American bandwagon (Hell, who can blame him?) so I guess I'll have to work a little harder to see his movies. I'm sure his movies are better than a lot of crap out in theaters these days if his performance in this one film is any indication of his talent. The guy has got serious screen presence. 

My advice? Put this film in your Netflix queue and give it a watch after you've made sure your iron stomach is shined up.

1 comment:

  1. I'm adding to to my queue and getting my barf bag ready.