I Saw The Devil (2010) Review – Or: Makes OldBoy Look Like Bambi

Yell! Magazine’s review of I Saw The Devil:

It’s taken your faithful reviewer a while to gather his thoughts concerning his recent viewing of I Saw The Devil. This isn’t a movie that is easily digested, even by a palate used to such fare as Men Behind The Sun and the autopsy fetish film Aftermath. (Both covered in Yell! Magazine’s list of Top 10 Most Uncomfortable Movies.) While not as liberal with the gore as those aforementioned movies, I Saw The Devil compensates with a truly nihilistic tone while taking away the safety net serial-killer movies usually afford us: the ability to root for the good guy. One of the most heavily hyped movies of the last few years, does I Saw The Devil deliver the goods (evils?) the Internet would have us believe? Or is this another case of hype trumping quality?


While I Saw The Devil could be categorized as a serial-killer drama in the same vein as Seven, the movie is less interested in the killer’s methodology than it is in exposing the razor-thin line that separates your average Joe from a ruthless, opportunistic thrill-killer. Two actors share top billing while never once taking the spotlight away from each other. They are Min-sik Choi, who earned international fame for his role in OldBoy, and Byung-hun Lee, who has a long career in Korean movies but is perhaps best known abroad for his role as Storm Shadow, both in Stephen Summers’ 2009 movie and the upcoming GI Joe: Retaliation.

I Saw The Devil begins with every woman’s worst nightmare: a broken down car, in the middle of the night, a long way from anywhere, and confronted by a complete stranger who seems nice enough but refuses to leave you alone. Suffice it to say, this sequence affected the females watching the movie with me more than myself. As Min-sik Choi, the good Samaritan, slowly but surely inches closer and closer to an explosion of violence more realistic than what viewers might be used to, the tension reaches nail-biting levels. When he finally pulls the woman from her car and bashes her repeatedly with a blunt object, we’re acutely aware that the camera doesn’t flinch away from the metal on bone punishment he’s unleashing. It is brutal stuff.

The killer isn’t done. In a sequence that is equal parts fascinating and repulsive, we watch, helplessly, as the killer mutilates and disposes of the woman’s remains, treating what was once a human being as nothing more than meat. He chooses his pieces and makes his cuts with all the grace of a butcher. I think that, overall, this segment scarred me the most. Having to watch as a living, breathing person, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, gets discarded like garbage had an impact on me. In a time when Hollywood releases entry after entry in the “Dead Teenager” genre, it was a revelation to realize that I cared so much about this woman after her being onscreen for less than 10 minutes. Score another one for Asian cinema horror over the shallowness of Hollywood movies.

Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
21 January 2011 (U.S.)
Jee-woo Kim
Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, Gook-hwan Jeon
Horror, Thriller, Crime, Drama
Official URL:
I Saw The Devil

What unfortunate twist befalls our serial killer? Find out after the jump…

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