Directed by: Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Byung-hung Lee, Min-sik Choi
When her car breaks down on a lonely snow-bound street, the young, pregnant woman becomes the latest victim of serial killer kyung-chul (Choi). Her fiancé, Special Agent Kim-soo Hyeon (Lee), circumvents the police investigation and uses his own skills to track down the killer. However rather than hand Kyung-chul over to the police, Kim-soo uses all his resources to make the killer’s remaining days a living hell. However Kim-soo becomes so obsessed with his quest for vengeance, he underestimates his prey…
“From the Director of The Good, the Bad and The Weird” the box says; strange that the distributors never referred to A Bittersweet Life. Perhaps the later movie sold more. Anyway, on to business. Is this movie any good?
A Bittersweet Life is a classic in my book; full of tension, drama and action. I Saw the Devil is equally as good but for very different reasons. This latest offering from the famous Korean Director is more of a horror film than an action movie, and has gained notoriety mainly for the scenes that were cut by Korean censors. That information is misleading as Korean censors regularly edit movies with similar content. This aspect of the movie’s treatment detracts from the fact that it is a very well thought out movie with some uncomfortably violent scenes.
Kim Jee-won’s camerawork is the first thing that is noticeable about the movie. This quality of approach is something that I’ve almost come to expect from this talented man. The cinematography swings between beautiful and lush looking and grittily stark. Mogae Lee proves himself as cinematographer.
The movie is very much a case of Yin and Yang as the line blurs between cop and serial killer. This is nothing new, but all concerned make an effort to bring across a freshness to the subject. It’s easy and perhaps lazy to compare this movie to US productions that tend to centre on serial killers wearing masks and chasing women to their doom. I Saw the Devil is not like this at all: Scenes of Kyung-Chul going about his business is purposefully made to make the audience uncomfortable. This is also the case with Special Agent Hyeon and his methods of finding out whom the real suspect is. This cop works well within the grey areas after the loss of his fiancé. The acting is top notch and helps the subject matter to be believable despite the extreme nature of some of the scenes.
Revenge thrillers are popular and so should this one be.
If you’re familiar with Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy then you’re part way prepared for this movie. It makes that trilogy look quite tame but those familiar with extreme cinema won’t be too worried by this.
This movie is not for the faint of heart. I reckon that most of you going into this, know what to expect. I doubt, like me, you’ll be disappointed. Kim Jee-Won is an important Korean Director that doesn’t just stick to one genre as the press quote on the DVD/Blu-Ray cover shows. I Saw the Devil is thoroughly recommended for those that like this style of cinema. My only criticism is that it could have been a shorter movie. Sometimes, the editor doesn't know quite when to leave things out; a minor issue.