The movie starts with the kidnapping of a secret service agent’s fiancée, who is later found brutally murdered and dismembered. This puts the agent over the edge and he decides to find her killer himself, despite urgings from his colleagues and her father, a retired police officer, to leave it to the authorities. Being good at his job, it doesn’t take the agent long to locate the killer.
Normally that is how most movies end, but this moment is where things become interesting in I Saw The Devil. The agent decides to rather slowly torment the killer instead of just murdering them. So he injures the killer, but lets him go – only to follow him and make his life a living hell. But the killer is anything but remorseful and the worse the agent’s tortures on him, the more aggressive and defiant he becomes. It plays on two popular tropes: what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object; and when do they who fight monster turn into monsters themselves? You could also argue that it’s about what happens when you confront ultimate evil?
I Saw The Devil has a reputation as being an extreme movie, but it’s one that is a little misguiding. Yes, this is not a feeble piece of cinema, but so many online reports make this sound like a torture porn saga – like watching Audition‘s foot-severing scene over and over again or having your brain torn apart like Irreversible. But things are a bit more subtle here and a lot of the violence is implied. Not all of it – some moments are brutally in your face, but I Saw The Devil is smart enough to juggle sheer shock with suggested brutality and offbeat surprises.
The feint of heart will still cringe – this is not a movie you should watch unless you sit comfortably with an experience like Oldboy or Public Enemy (Gonggongui jeok).
But if you like your thrillers films to have real edge and intelligence, with only a hint of compromise, then this bleak piece of cinema should be next on your queue. [/column] [column size=one_half position=last ] [/column]
Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.
Last Updated: December 1, 2014