I Saw The Devil / 악마를 보았다 is director Kim Jee Woon’s 2010 revenge flick about a special agent getting his own back after his wife is butchered by a serial killer. Rather than just killing him straight up, his thirst for vengeance is so great that he repeatedly lets him go only to swoop in and deny him again and again. It’s really a good look at the limits of revenge and as everyone know, how it may assuage the anger but never fill the gaping maw.

I kinda think of the film as a hybrid between two recent Korean movies I’d watched, namely: Bong Joon Ho’s Memories Of Murder and Lee Jeong Bom’s The Man From Nowhere. You’ve got the serial killer thriller with the evidential details mixed into the hardcore action vengeance plot. Overall, I have to say, it’s quite suspenseful and thrilling even if somewhat predictable, you still jump outta your seat and shit.

There’s quite a lot of gruesome scenes and they don’t really bother to hide too much. Plenty of blood and plenty of body parts abound for the gorefiend. The protagonist is played by Lee Byung Hun who is on duty as some sort of secret agent or something. His wife is tragically stuck in the snow on her birthday. Enter Choi Min Sik of Old Boy fame, who is a perfect fit as the serial killer psychopath. He extends an offering of help which is rejected and doesn’t take long to break out the blunt objects and bash away at the windscreen.

Days later, they find the body, well the remains anyway, in some out of the way area and Lee Byung Hun gets his emo moment after watching the forensics team spill his wife’s head on the floor as they get chased by the paparazzi. He takes 2 weeks off work and decides he’s going to hunt the bastard down. His father in law just happens to be the police chief and hands him 4 possible suspects. The first one is really funny cos he breaks into his apartment whilst the dude is trying to self enable a nutbust, beats the shit out of him only to learn that he isn’t the guy. He finishes up by smashing his testes with a mallet. You next see the poor sod in hospital having confessed to a few killings and the cops are wondering what the hell happened, with the captain asking him “Who broke your balls?”.

Eventually Lee Byung Hun gets his man, stopping him from raping a schoolgirl in the process. What a hero. But he doesn’t really give a shit about the girl that much, he just wants revenge. He has a chance to kill him but instead leaves the guy with just a broken hand and a wad of cash to get back on his feet. A GPS tracker with a mic is stuffed into his face and his leash is fixed.

So from cat and mouse game, you get tormentor and slave as Lee’s character alternates between letting his man go and tightening his leash again and again as you start to wonder if all the excessive torture is really worth it and if there’s any point. I mean, he cuts his achilles tendon out in one gruesome scene with an almost raped nurse having to patch him up after.

I like the film, it’s very engaging but there’s just something very Korean about how it’s so brutal and emotionally intense. Sometimes, I find the extremities a little discomforting but I suppose that’s part of the point of the film.