Subgenre: Foreign / Serial Killer
Summary: After his fiancé is brutally murdered, a secret agent goes to disturbing lengths to exact revenge on the killer.
Review: This review reveals plot developments that, despite occurring somewhat early in the movie, could be construed as spoilers. Consider this a warning: if you want to go in blind, skip to the verdict.
I Saw the Devil starts off with the terrifyingly realistic murder of an innocent woman at the hands of a madman. When news of this tragedy reaches her government agent fiancé Soo-hyun, he decides to take justice into his own hands. After he tracks the killer down, he brutalizes him then lets him go, setting off a sadistic game of catch-and-release.
In its first act, the morality of I Saw the Devil’s characters is as black-and-white as it gets. On one side is the cruel, murderous Kyung-chul, and on the other is the handsome, justice-driven Soo-hyun. But as Soo-hyun’s revenge plot grows increasingly elaborate and violent, his own morality begins to deteriorate. I Saw the Devil questions where justice ends and revenge begins, and asks us just how far we’re willing to follow its hero down his dark, destructive path.
Despite its length, I Saw the Devil is never less than riveting, and its final half-hour will have you glued to the screen. Its scale is at once grand and intimate, and the battle between its two uncompromising adversaries is a meeting of unstoppable force and immovable object. Both leads deliver impressive performances, but Choi Min-sik’s inhuman killer is the standout.
The Verdict: Dark, compelling, and intelligent, I Saw the Devil earns its place among Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs as one of the great horror-thrillers. I give it eight-and-a-half Korean killers out of ten.