THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
I must admit that I am a relative latecomer to Korean film. In fact, the first Korean film I ever saw was Oldboy. Seriously, that movie blew my mind and remains in my opinion one of the best movies ever made. So when I saw that I Saw the Devil also starred Oldboy actor Choi Min-sik, I just had to take a look and I was not disappointed.
What’s the movie about? IMDB summarizes the plot as follows:- When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge. For the first half-hour, we experience the terror and pain of Joo-yun (Oh San-ha) as she is kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Jang Kyung-chul (Choi) and the impact her death has on her family and her fiance, secret agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun). In the next half-hour, Soo-hyun seeks out Jang for revenge and actually apprehends him on the hour mark interrupting Jang’s latest attempt at rape and murder.
Frankly, I was scratching my head at that point – what would the rest of the movie be about? In fact, Soo-hyun does not kill Jang or bring him to justice. Instead he implants a GPS transmitter into Jang and proceeds to follow him around to ‘torture’ him further. Inevitably, Soo-hyun’s plans go awry and Jang ends up blinding his fiancee’s father and murders her sister! I certainly did not see any of that coming!
The simple moral of the tale? Instead of achieving vengeance, Soo-hyun’s anger blinds him to the danger of messing around with a monster like Jang and ends up worse off than he was before. In the ending sequence, Soo-hyun’s does obtain some form of closure but at what cost?
Disturbing and thought-provoking, I Saw the Devil is not for the faint-hearted with gore and nudity pumped up to the max. Lee is brilliant as the stoic avenger whilst Choi plays the serial killer Jang with a certain amount of deviant glee. What keep the film descending into B-movie gore is the sharp characterizations of the protagonists throughout and the constant plot twists. A must-see.