I Saw the Devil [Blu-Ray] Jee-woon Kim

I Saw the Devil [Blu-Ray] Jee-woon Kim
Eclectic South Korean director Jee-woon Kim (The Good, the Bad, the Weird) continues his appropriation of popular cinema genres, this time furthering fellow countryman Chan-wook Park's scrutiny of the cost of vengeance. Re-teaming with Byung-hun Lee (who portrayed "the Bad" in the director's previous film) and the star of Park's landmark picture, Oldboy (Min-sik Choi), Jee-woon Kim engages in a game of grotesque one-upmanship with I Saw the Devil. Beautiful cinematography adds a twisted sense of grace to the proceedings as highly trained secret agent Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee) embarks upon an off-the-books mission of revenge after his finance is brutally dismembered. His chief of police, and almost father-in-law, condones Kim's promise to revisit the pain caused his daughter upon her murderer, feeding him leads on suspects. Quickly establishing the extent to which Kim is willing to go in his pursuit, he viciously burns through a few scum bags on the list before finding his man, Kyung-chul (Choi), a psychopath of the highest order. That's when the real story begins in earnest. Kim embarks upon a deadly game of catch and release, creating an interesting dynamic, as it's made abundantly clear that Kim's skill set greatly outmatches Kyung-chul's cold psychosis. Instead of it being a matter of whether Kim can enact vengeance upon his prey, it's a question of how much is too much and if a monster can respond to monstrous behaviour with anything but reinvigorated monstrosity. We spend at least as much time with Kyung-chul as we do Kim, but as peculiar layers of killers killing killers stack, nobody's motivations, aside from Kim's obvious trigger, are explored. Maybe it's an intentional depiction of true, senseless evil, explaining one side of the title, or maybe Jee-woon Kim is still more style than substance, although I Saw the Devil is a marked improvement upon his previous works in every aspect. An extensive behind-the-scenes feature does little to expand upon the moral implications, opting to focus on the elaborate action choreography and some of the trickier shots, including the wowing 360-knifing-in-a-taxi sequence. As with most South Korean features, the filmmakers are refreshingly candid about their efforts and disappointments, lamenting the lack of technical expertise possessed by Americans and demonstrating solutions reliant upon good, old fashioned elbow grease. Nearly two-and-a-half hours already, the film contains about another half-hour of deleted scenes, none of which are essential, often over-explaining what can be inferred, though some may hold further sick fascination for certain viewers. Not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach, this dark achievement leaves it up to viewers to decide if it's simply a thrilling exercise and logical response to the popularity and tropes of the genre or a more damning critique, making the audience complicit in an out of control rollercoaster of bloodlust. Either way, I Saw the Devil is a horrifying success. (Maple)