A serial killer kills a pregnant woman who turns out to be the fiancé of a trained agent with an amazing body. The agent decides to take revenge, a slow revenge in which he constantly tortures the serial killer and then releases him. How long will this game last?
The Norwegian edition is the South Korean edition which lacks around 80 seconds of graphic scenes. Jee-wen Kim had to cut away some of the graphic scenes to be allowed to show the movie in cinemas in South Korea. He added a harder sex scene, but he says that his version is the one with the graphic scenes. The British edition is also the South Korean version, so you have to buy the US edition which is the international edition that hasn’t been cut. So you might want to buy both editions if you like the movie.
Jee-woon Kim is my favorite movie director, I’ve written enough about him in other reviews, so I’m not gonna repeat myself in this review.
Everyone talks about the violence. I was looking forward to the violence, but when Jee-woon Kim is my favorite director, I expect a little extra. We get to see in some scenes why he is regarded to be one of the best movie directors in the world. Few can do the things he does with a camera.
I Saw the Devil has two amazing scenes, and that’s the greenhouse scene and taxi scene. But beyond that, the violence is not that graphic and hard to look at. I just don’t understand why so many say that this is a brutal and graphic movie. It’s more interesting to watch the agent transform into a monster. A monster he doesn’t want to be, but the monster in him takes over. Revenge!
It’s so much more about violence, it’s about the agent who becomes a monster, a man who plays with the devil and who has to pay the price. Although the violence is not as brutal and graphic as I expected, I still felt dirty and quite tired when the poor, sick serial killer is constantly beaten and tortured by the handsome agent.
But the atmosphere never gets dark enough, it’s too much black humor here that destroys the realism and tension for me. For my taste, Jee-woon Kim should have made a more dark movie without a touch of humor. And that comes from a man who loves dark humor and Takashi Miike! The movie is dark in the first 30-40 minutes. The serial killer is scary as hell, but then the tone and atmosphere change when the handsome agent finds the serial killer who killed his fiancé.
It’s the violence that so many have talked about that was sort of the selling point, but I think people exaggerated. An iron bar in the skull looks painful, but many of the other scenes that people talk about aren’t so much to talk about in my world. And this says a guy who almost faints when I see my own blood! The depiction of violence in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is much cruder and raw in my eyes. Sometimes what you don’t see can be worse than what you see.
My problem with I Saw the Devil is that the critics and viewers talked so much about the violence. So I expected a new Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance when I saw the movie for the first time. That movie also has dark humor. But the violence there is more difficult to look at, though it’s not as graphic as in I Saw the Devil. It’s fun to see close-ups of the violence and see the damage the violence does to a human body, but as brutal and graphic as many say it is, it’s just not. It gets a little too wild in the long run so the realism disappears.
Byung-hun Lee is good in the role of the agent who is looking for revenge. But I always feel when I see the movie that his character could have been written a little better. You see a character development where he is almost transformed into a bigger monster than the devil himself in this movie, which is interesting. But he also feels like an invincible robot on a mission, something that kills the suspense.
Min-sik Choi is great as usual. He shows such wonderful evilness that it’s almost impossible to believe that a man can be so evil. His role interpretation is one of the best I’ve seen in a serial killer movie. And together with the transformation of the protagonist, his character is the soul of the movie. It’s the actions he does that makes him so interesting. He’s the most interesting part of the movie, and not all of the violence being shown on the screen. What an evil bastard! I loved him, something I shouldn’t do. But it tells you something about the movie, doesn’t it?
I Saw the Devil is not a movie for everyone. Those who have seen some movies from South Korea know how raw and brutal they can be. So I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with the movie. Just lower your expectations, and don’t just think of graphic violence when watching the movie. Watch the transformation of the protagonist, see the consequences it has when he plays with the devil.