Normally, I’m more of a fan of J-Horror as it tends to blend the obnoxious with the sublime seamlessly, but this Korean thriller, I Saw the Devil is an epic tale of revenge that could make the likes of Takashi Miike jealous with squid-blasting rage.
It all begins when young Joon-yun breaks down one snowy evening only to brutally murdered by the psychopathic, school-bus-driving shithead, Kyung-chul. Kyung is not just a serial killer, but something of a celebrity SK who somehow manages to evade police capture.
Unfortunately for Kyung, Joon’s husband is NIS agent and supercop, Soo-hyun. Soo is rightfully enraged, but cares not to take this Korean Ed Kemper into custody, but rather, to get revenge…
For Soo-hyun, revenge is an art form. Yes, the target is a high-profile criminal who would make Seoul’s streets safer were he taken down, but Soo must savor the process, or, more to the point, the performance.
I Saw the Devil examines the mechanics of revenge and the philosophy of revenge. The old adage claims that revenge is best served cold, but Soo believes it is better to be served with patience… and frequently.
As Kyung’s beatings commence, the physically superior Soo pummels the freak into submission with ease, often within an inch of his life, but holds back before the killing blow. Soo figures it is best to savor revenge and let the bitter taste linger in one’s soul, so the cop decides to let him go.
For another beating… and another…
For anyone who was a fan of the old Roadrunner cartoons, this is like a grim rendition of it where Wile E. Coyote actually manages to catch the meeping bird. Shoot, it even has a nasty contraption at the climax that is an obvious homage to the ACME Corporation.
I Saw the Devil is a thought-provoking thrill ride that combines the terror and adventure of urban crime with the hermetic philosophy of a Jodorowsky western. Directed by Kim Ji-woon, who was responsible for the excellent Tale of Two Sisters, this film was quite the surprise for me to stumble across on the Xfinity channel. A great, ultraviolent treat.
– M.C. O’Neill