Sundance Review: ‘I Saw the Devil’

Can a movie be too violent? For my personal taste, I would say yes. At 141 minutes, ‘I Saw the Devil’ is almost non-stop violence. This isn’t violence where the camera turns away and your brain does the guesswork. This is full-on, no-holds-barred, How-did-they-film-that-without-actually-killing-anyone? type of violence. That brings me to my next question: If the only thing separating a movie from the rest of its genre is the audacity in showing so much violence, does that make it a good movie?

I Saw the Devil

Directed by Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik

I wrestled with whether or not I liked ‘I Saw the Devil’. It’s a revenge story from Korea. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has played at Fantastic Fest. A man loses his wife to a serial killer. Coincidentally, that man is also a government law enforcement agent. Now he’s on a quest to find his wife’s killer and make the man suffer.

From that point onward, ‘I Saw the Devil’ is an unrelenting blood-soaked ride into the deepest depravities of mankind. There is some sick, twisted stuff going on with these bad guys. Really sick and really twisted.

Some people dig movies that are filled to the brim with skull-crushing action, but ‘I Saw the Devil’ made me feel like I was watching the Korean version of ‘Saw‘ – without any of the cute, pseudo-clever games conjured up by some unseen man.

‘I Saw the Devil’ does try to get that ‘Dexter‘ dichotomy going. How can a man kill other people and not become a monster himself? Still, it never quite gets there because it’s so focused on its violence just for violence sake.

If you’re a fan of the films of Ji-woon Kim, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. Be warned, though – this one isn’t for the weak of stomach.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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