I Saw The Devil
Title: I Saw The Devil
Genre: Action, Crime, Horror, Thriller
Starring: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Gook-hwan Jeon
Director: Kim Jee-Woon
Korea might not have the largest film industry, they may not have the most money to flash around on CGI, or the greatest number of films being released, but once again i've discovered proof that they have one of the strongest film industries and much of that is thanks to just three directors; Chan Wook-Park, Joon Bong-Ho, and this films very own Kim Jee-Woon, who is perhaps the weakest link in all of this and still capable of producing works others would be proud to call their magnum opus. This is the depraved tale of a serial killer whom the police have failed to catch, letting him roam free to commit atrocity again and again, choosing young women as his target of choice, except it was bound to be only a matter of time before he chose the wrong woman. Fiancée to a man on the other side, a special agent who devotes his attention to delivering the exact same punishment to him as he dealt to his darling beloved. On ensues the bloody game of cat and mouse, the serial killer now a dangerous prey for our hunter, catching him and releasing him, toying and playing with his catch in his sadistic revenge.
Some circles are bound to draw comparisons to the recently released 'Cold Fish;' one of the most highly regarded Japanese directors, Sion Sono, apparently deciding to take a similar idea under their wing and see what they could come up with, but despite the similar premise in taking a serial killer and introducing another into their world, the two couldn't play out any more differently. Where 'Cold Fish' was subtle in its build up of the characters, developing them and showing both sides to their personality and using blood to emphasise the point, this takes a far more violent nature. From the very beginning the gore rears its head and it never feels too far around the corner; bloodhounds will find plenty in this department to satisfy their cravings, all shot without CGI where possible and taking care over the cinematography, yielding a dark sense of realism and never shying away to show you as many of the gritty details as you bare see through the gaps in your fingers. Things like character development all but get thrown out the window in this unrelenting quest for brutality; our serial killer given no real motive for his actions, just that these are his actions and the consequences they have brought down upon himself. There's no mention of their past or their lives previous to their fateful encounter; the characters are woefully underdeveloped and as a result struggles to try to compensate by its sheer visceral nature.
And sadly, this is what seperates the good from the best in the genre; 'Oldboy' certainly had its violent moments, but the reason that it was such a mesmerising film to watch was the mystery element to it all, trying to unravel the pieces that held everything together. There's an element of the dark sadism inherent in Chan Wook-Park's 'Revenge Trilogy,' certainly in our lead's drive for revenge, and Fincher's Se7en - and indeed a comparison to the TV show 'Dexter' feels fitting, albeit to a lesser extent - too has no qualms about showing you scenes of a hellish chaos but behind the carnage was a detailed character study into what just made these men tick; why do they carry out such atrocities, and sadly neither of these aspects are presented. All we get is a shade of grey between who the real monster is said to be; the serial killer or the man toying with him, but it never feels to become any the more fleshed out from those opening moments. There is a flood of good films taking similar revenge premises, and whilst it proudly stands amongst them, does little to truly make it stand apart as one of the best.
Nothing bad can be said about Choi Min-Sik's portrayal of this monster, but it seems he's given little opportunity in the script to demonstrate any real depth to the character. It's a perfect example of a dark thriller; a horror by it's nature and an action by equal right, but the film needs to be taken in context. The pace never slows down so you can catch your breath and travels at a blistering speed that can never be said to be boring, and the blood is gloriously gratuitous, but if you're looking for anything just a little more detailed and serious, then 'I Saw The Devil' just falls short of the mark.