Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Saw the Devil

Directed by Jee-woon Kim.
2010. Not Rated, 141 minutes.
Byung-hun Lee
Min-sik Choi
Gook-hwan Jeon
Ho-jin Jeon
San-ha Oh
Yoon-seo Kim

Joo-yeon (Oh) is stranded on the side of the road on a snowy night with a flat tire. She is on the phone with her husband Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee) who is also a secret agent of some sort. In fact, he’s at work at this precise moment. A stranger approaches Joo-Yeon’s door, offering to help. Wisely, and with the agreement of her hubby, she only cracks the window enough to tell him she is going to wait on the tow truck she’s already called. Obviously, they’ve seen a horror movie or two. Pretty soon, duty calls and hubby has to hang up the phone and get back to work. Just in case you can’t figure out where all this is going the creepy dude bashes in Joo-yeon’s window, knocks her out in a most untidy manner and drags her, quite literally at some points, back to his place. That’s when he really has his fun. Suffice it to say when the police find her, it’s not all at once. Trust me, this is only the beginning of a very bumpy ride.

Not one to sit idly by, Kim decides he’s going after the bad guy himself. Don’t you worry. This movie won’t bore you with detective work. He quickly learns the police have four main susupects who have been accused of similar crimes in the past. He immediately takes bereavement leave and starts tracking them down where they live and does some not so nice things to them.

Eventually, Kim not only gets to the right guy, but there is no doubt about it. That guy is Kyung-chul played by Min-sik Choi. Fans of Park Chan-wook’s “Trilogy of Vengeance” will remember him from the two best movies in that series, Lady Vengeance and most notably as our hero in Oldboy. Here, he is on the other side of the coin and barely recognizable (that’s him in the pic). He’s a completely amoral merciless homicidal maniac. Much like Javier Bardem’s performance in No Country for Old Men, he goes about his business in an awfully calm manner making him far more menacing than he would’ve been had he been a screaming, raging lunatic. It’s a remarkable performance.

The two men meet rather early in the movie. Because they do, a question presents itself and weaves itself into the fabric of the movie: To truly get revenge on a monster, do you have to become one yourself. It seems Kim does. Whenever our two combatants square off there are considerable fireworks. Kim is not content with merely killing Kyung-chul. He wants to make him suffer as much as possible which involves tracking him down beating him half to death and maiming him in some way then letting him go so he can do it all over again.

Between their meetings there is great tension and, thanks to our villain’s excursions plenty more very nasty happenings. This movie is not for the squeamish. It may be one of the more brutally violent films you’ll ever see. Still, despite the seemingly gallons of blood spilled and dozens of blows to various heads with heavy blunt objects (pipe, fire extinguisher, etc), this is no simple gore-fest. It blends the genres horror, thriller and action to create an unflinching and slyly complex revenge flick. It’s one downfall, aside from the violence if that’s too much for you, is that the end is a bit predictable. However, even then the manner in which it’s handled is brilliantly grotesque. Then we have to decide whether this ordeal was really worth it for the one left standing. As the credits roll bringing our thrilling and disturbing journey to a close we still have one more important question to ponder: Who really won?

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