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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: I Saw the Devil

May 8th, 2011

I Saw the Devil - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

I Saw the Devil is the latest film from Jee-woon Kim, who previously made the critically acclaimed films A Tale of Two Sisters and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird. Given his track record with critics, expectations on this film are quite high.

The Movie

The film starts as we watch a man, Kyung-Chul driving along a desolate road in the snow when he sees a car on the side of the road. We cut to inside the car and see a woman, Joo-Yun, on the phone with her fiancee, Soo-Hyun, while waiting for the tow truck to arrive. The man offers to help change the tire, but the fiancee tells her to just wait for the tow truck. This turns out to be good advice, as he's not a good Samaritan, but a notorious serial killer, but it's too late.

After her body is found, Soo-Hyun takes two weeks off of work as a secret service agent to grieve. His boss is concerned that he's not taking enough time, but he's adamant that this is all he'll need. He has a plan to expedite the grieving process by skipping denial, bargaining, and depression and going right to anger. He plans on using his skills as a secret service agent and Joo-Yun's father's connections with the police force to track down the killer and get revenge. He quickly catches up to two of the four lead suspects, but while their bastards, they are not the bastard he's looking for.

When he does find the right guy, he's not interested in just simple revenge. And this is where the film goes from police procedural to revenge flick to torture porn, but not the usual type of torture porn.

I am not a fan of torture porn. Being entertained by torture seems perverse. That said, this film is different from most others in the genre. We are not expected to be entertained by pain and suffering. We are not even just rooting for someone to get revenge in the most gruesome fashion imaginable, which would be more acceptable, if still perverse. I Saw the Devil is a movie about someone turning into a monster in order to fight a monster and the pain this causes to innocent people. (By toying with Kyung-Chul and not just killing him immediately, Soo-Hyun inadvertently allows several innocent people to be killed, as well as a pair of totally unconnected killers.) Because there is a more intellectually rich story, it rises above its genre.

Also, it's just an exceptionally well made movie. Jee-woon Kim develops tension in a fashion few can match while the acting is incredible. The film is arguably too long (it clocks in at over two hours and twenty minutes) and the cat and mouse game gets a bit repetitive and a bit weird at times. (Cannibals?) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this is a film that will be too much for many people. Those who can sit through it will be rewarded.

The Extras

The only extras are 25 minutes of deleted / extended scenes and a 27-minute interview / behind-the-scenes featurette. That's not a lot of extras, but this is common for foreign language imports. I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but it only costs 25% more than the DVD, which is better than most Blu-rays.

The Verdict

I Saw the Devil is a film that's too gruesome for most and while I think the DVD or the Blu-ray are worth picking up, I would definitely recommend starting with a rental, unless you are a fan of films like the Vengeance Trilogy.

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