Overlooked Film of the Week- #15
I Saw The Devil
I am not sure if I have ever mentioned my love for Asian Cinema on my blog before. But let me just say this out loud, I thrive on Asian Cinema on a near primal level. What I love about the movies of the east is that they don't hold anything back. For living in a free country, we sure have a hefty load of censorship, but not in Asia. That is why their horror, suspense, and dramatic films are all raw, pulpy and absolutely hypnotic. With "I Saw The Devil" in particular, there are several scenes in this film (including the picture above) that I absolutely guarantee would be edited out of an American production. So when you sit down to watch a Asian film, your getting quite the experience.
"I Saw The Devil" is violent and grim, essentially its the story of James Bond versus Buffalo Bill from "The Silence of the Lambs." If you can imagine how awesome a movie like that would be, the fun and glow of James Bond going head-to-head with a serial killer isn't what we get with "I Saw The Devil." "I Saw The Devil" is extremely gritty, but at the same time it has a brain, and it will pick at yours if you let it.
The film begins with a woman on her cell phone with whom sounds like her husband. It's a snowy night, she's in the middle of nowhere, and she's stranded on a non-busy road. The man is keeping her wife company until help arrives. A drifter keeps bothering the woman, trying very hard to get a ride. She is most definitely creeped out, and does not want to help this man. He gladly leaves, but soon enough he eventually comes back and attacks her. His scene where he attacks the girl always makes me jump, no matter how many times I've seen the movie. The drifter then viciously rapes and kills the woman and dumps her body miles away from her car, her husband still on the line.
The woman's husband Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee Byung-hun) is stricken with grief, but ripe with revenge. He works for the South Korean government, and he has a wide variety of skills to make this drifter pay. He catches up with his wife's killer (played to striking perfection by Choi Min-sik.) Soo-hyeon brutally torments his wife's killer, but does not end his life. He wants to keep this going, he wants to enjoy every bit of revenge, he wants to make this deranged animal pay for not just his wife's murder, but the other woman he's killed. So Soo-hyeon let's him get away. He finds him and hurts him again. As Soo-hyeon slowly kills this man, it gets harder to hurt the guy. The killer is smart, and he's learning from his attacker. Soo-hyeon suddenly finds himself in a lot of trouble. He beings to think, did he let this go too far? Should he have given the man a faster death? But worst of all, is Soo-hyeon becoming the same monster that he is trying to defeat?
You will remember Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe movies. I like Byung-hun a lot, but he has a career high in this movie. At the beginning of the film, he is sad but slick and dangerous. He comes off completely sure that he will kill his target and make him pay. But when he realizes how ugly things have gotten, he feels pain. He feels, incredible, nauseating pain. The crossover was nearly heartbreaking, and Byung-hun sells every minute of it. Choi Min-sik played the main character in the original "Oldboy." It was interesting to see him play a sweet yet vengeful hero in that movie and then see him as a sick, twisted murderer in "I Saw The Devil." Choi Min-sik is a impeccable actor, and I sincerely hope he gets an American debut so that my other countrymen can witness his talent.
"I Saw The Devil" is everything you would want from a great horror-thriller. It's an idea that could have easily been wrapped up in goofiness, and in the hands of an American studio it very well could have been. I hope if you seek this out, you check out many other great films the Asian world has to offer, it's a great world of film and is worth checking out.