You Gotta See This: I Saw the Devil

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Stars: Byung-Hun Lee, Choi Min-sik

Not rated although the language, gore and violence is present throughout, Running Time- 141 minutes, 2010, Horror/Drama/Thriller

Compare to: Se7en (1995), Oldboy (2003), Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Seeing as how this week already has a few posts that are unlike what I’ve been doing on the site lately, I figured I’d throw one more in that’s Horror related, more or less. In fact, given the subject matter and the way it’s handled, the scenes and actions in Devil could be considered that much worse.

It’s not rubber monsters and masked men to fear in this, it’s just a single man and his obsession with preying on women all on their lonesome: a fear that almost as horrific for the loved ones as it is the actual victim.

After Soo-hyun’s wife is murdered by a killer that’s been roaming the Korean countryside, the National Intelligence Service agent undergoes a personal mission to find the man responsible. But revenge is a bit too simple in the form of turning the man in, or even killing him; Soo-hyun intentionally begins a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that isn’t going to end well for either man; the killer or his hunter.

Guy kills woman. Woman’s husband turns out to be NIS agent. Agent hunts killer, back and forth, back and forth. Seems simple enough in a way, right? I mean, if your wife or loved one was killed, fantasies of revenge are only natural. But Soo-hyun, played by Lee Byung-hun, isn’t just trying to take justice into his own hands- he becomes the monster to the monster, in a way; making the title open to interpretation of what the victims of the killer witness, what Soo-hyun sees when coming across the man responsible for the murders and that man’s affiliates and lastly, what the murderer sees in Soo-hyun when he realizes that this man isn’t going to stop.

Oldboy is also a nasty, nasty boy. If you don't hear the song when you read that, it just makes me seem creepy.

Oldboy is also a nasty, nasty boy. If you don’t hear the song when you read that, it just makes me seem creepy.

Man, I love stuff like this. It’s interesting to have a man responsible for so many horrendous acts, but it seems possible for a moment, due to Soo-hyun’s brutality. When he finds Kyung-chul (played by Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik), it’s not enough to just slap him around but I mean, he really goes to town on him. Wrists are stomped on, knives are brought out and swung violently, often hitting their intended target, faces are bludgeoned… this one isn’t for those with weak stomachs.

It’s not “gore-porn” though, as the violence is meant to be abhorred, not savored. And it’s the same disdain you feel for the blood and guts that you’re meant to feel for Soo-hyun’s taste for blood. This isn’t like a Seagal movie, where he snaps a couple arms in the name of baby seals everywhere and then goes home to drink more of his energy drinks; you really want Soo-hyun to stop.

Not even because you feel bad for Kyung-chul, but you begin to realize the toll it’s taking on what was a decent man.

The good guy is the one holding the knife. Yeesh!

The good guy is the one holding the knife. Yeesh!

Though Kyung-chul isn’t your “average” serial killer in the first place. He doesn’t take his beatings lying down unless he’s being held down, he hardly seems to care what’s happening to him save for the fact that he doesn’t seem to like “losing,” and his penchant for violence isn’t sated simply because he’s having to pay for his crimes.

In some ways, it feels wrong to see such a great rivalry between a man and a perverted murderer. But in many ways, it seems needed in a genre. One character always running in fear of another gets old. So to have a killer running from the “good” guy puts an odd twist in the film very few others can promote. This, and the fact that you really hate Kyung-chul yet the violence is taken to such an extreme, your limits are tested as well in how much you can really stand to see him smacked around and beaten.

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Although the first time was kinda fun.

The rivalry between the two makes me think of how people would react to Batman and the Joker without the costumed theatrics. As a character, Joker is horrible person. In the comics, his exploits aren’t nearly as subtle; beating kids to death, paralyzing a young woman, allusions to rape on several occasions…the list goes on.

As much fun as Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight was, they don’t point to him being any better of a character morally, it’s just that you can really only show so much in PG-13 films. It seems acceptable to people that because he’s such a great foil to Batman, he should be idolized in a sense when really, he’s simply meant to be the other character in Batman’s world that won’t break. And that’s what makes it so entertaining.

Enter your friend's terrible Joker impression here.

Enter your friend’s terrible Joker impression here.

Yet people seem to forget that many of these characters are interesting in the extremes that they take things to, not what they’re actually doing.

I Saw the Devil puts revenge and rivalry back in it’s place. It’s not something to aspire to, or to want to be a part of- it’s a majorly entertaining story of two men that, in one way or another, ruined themselves through refusals to do the right thing.

It’s probably still on Netflix, FYI.

Another thing- LOOK at these freaking posters! If American cinema would unwrap the rubber band from around their balls and commit to more posters like this, they might not only attract a wider audience to their movie, but help tell the story in the process. No more garbage like THIS.

devil7Seriously, I’m not even judging it based on the crappy movie that it was, I’m solely talking about the poster. Nothing about the story whatsoever, Vaughn and James are so overly photoshopped they look like old, fat Ken dolls.

Anyway, I put as many as I could find down here if you want to check them out and let me know your favorite. I can’t decide.

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…And the one you’ve most likely seen.

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