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Reviews & Ratings for
I Saw the Devil More at IMDbPro »Akmareul boatda (original title)

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218 out of 253 people found the following review useful:

Haunting but beautiful.

10/10
Author: inkgrenade from Canada
18 November 2010

Whenever I see a negative review of "I Saw the Devil", the critic always mentions (scornfully) that the movie is ultra violent and portrays women in horrifying circumstances. Yes it is, and yes it does.

But this isn't a Hollywood slasher flick. The kills in this movie are not gratifying and aren't meant to be. The women being killed are not scantily clad models running through forests from men wearing masks. There is nothing pleasant or "cool" about these scenes; they make the viewer uncomfortable, they unsettle, they bring one's mind into very dark places. It gives us a peek into the madness that every man is capable of, and does so realistically and without pulling its punches. This brutal realism makes people uncomfortable, and prompts negative reviews. This is understandable, but unfortunate. I believe that a movie should be judged on more than the amount of blood the viewer is comfortable seeing on-screen. To these people, please, do not watch Korean revenge thrillers if you are uncomfortable with torture or blood.

But enough of that rambling. This movie is excellent. Beautiful cinematography contrasts the stark, dimly lit scenes where the murders, or gritty fight scenes, occur. The camera work is simple but effective; the viewer is often treated to close-ups of both Byung-hun Lee and Mik-sik Choi, and their facial expressions tell us more than dialogue ever could. There is also contrast between Lee and Choi. Lee, clean and stoic, and Choi, filthy and madly expressive. They compliment each other very well, and play off of each others strengths effectively.

The story itself is typical of revenge films, but fantastic in its execution. Lee's character experiences a profound loss at the hands of Choi's character, and in the process of seeking revenge begins to resemble the man he so hates. The line between "victim" and "aggressor" becomes blurred between both characters. This is where the film shines. There is no black and white in "I Saw the Devil"; the viewer is left with shades of grey.

As for the acting, it was all done very well. As I mentioned, Lee and Choi work well together, and all supporting cast members did an excellent job. Choi portrays his character in an incredibly convincing manner, shifting suddenly from calmness to manic anger, but never in a way that feels unnatural or forced. Lee's character is quiet and much less expressive, but he does very well in showing immense amounts of emotion through just his eyes or subtle movements of his body. A memorable performance from them both.

As for flaws, the only thing I can think of is the strange, perhaps unrealistic behaviour of the police. Lee is a member of the NIS, and is very skilled when it comes to remaining hidden, but that shouldn't make him untouchable when directly provoking police officers or driving on the wrong side of the street. Still, though, it's a very trivial complaint that isn't worth a deducted point.

A confident 10/10 from me. If you are comfortable seeing serial murder portrayed realistically, and are able to appreciate more than just gore, please, do yourself a favour and watch this film.

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108 out of 154 people found the following review useful:

Brutally profound

10/10
Author: pizza0 from Canada
15 September 2010

Just came back from the TIFF 10 screening of the UNCUT version of this film, and after reading the very first review posted here, I feel somewhat compelled to leave a short comment.

the movie is about revenge. a woman is murdered by a serial killer, the woman's soon-to-be husband, who happens be a highly trained special agent, takes revenge on the serial killer in some of the most gruesome ways ever presented on film.

The "TAKEN"-esque plot is fairly straight forward and even predictable at times, for some people, this unfortunately exposes the violence and turns it into a dominating theme, hence remarks of it being mindless and unnecessary are brought up.

But fans of this genre can easily see past the violence, and be drawn back to the noir nature of the film with each passing violence "segement", in the end, you can feel the main character's will for revenge, and that simply transcends the violence, and ultimately turns the film into an imaginative commentary on the human condition.

the film would also remind you of classic Fincher films, namely se7en, however, the theatrical construction of plot is a signature Ji Woon Kim style, the mise-en-scene, the soundtrack, you see it in every single film of his, especially bittersweet life.

after watching this film I found myself immediately comparing it to another masterpiece sympathy for mr.vengeance, so for those of you who have seen chan wook park's revenge trilogy and loved it, you should find time to see this film.

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85 out of 113 people found the following review useful:

An uncompromising, unsettling and unforgettable thriller

8/10
Author: DonFishies from Canada
24 September 2010

This movie is not for the squeamish, or the faint of heart. Censors claimed it was offensive to human dignity. These were the kinds of things they told the audience at the world premiere screening of the Uncut Version of I Saw the Devil at the Toronto International Film Festival last week. I had heard the movie was pretty graphic, but I never expected that it would push any boundaries. I turned out to be only half right.

After finding out his fiancée has been brutally murdered, secret agent Dae-hoon (Byung-hun Lee) is at a loss. With the help of his father-in-law, he sets out on a revenge plot to find the man who did it. He quickly finds the culprit, Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi). He beats him pretty badly, but instead of killing him, he leaves him alive. He wants to stalk his prey, and exact his revenge slowly and increasingly more painfully.

Going in with very few ideas of what I was about to see, I was startled and thrilled at the tenacious audacity on display from the opening scene all the way until the final frames. The film is a gritty, merciless experience that could never be truly recreated in North America. This is the kind of hard-boiled revenge thriller you could only find in Korea. And to hear that even the censors there could not handle Kim Ji-woon's complete vision makes the film all the more uncompromising and astounding. It has taken me well over a week to try and come up with the words to describe and review the film, but never once have I forgotten anything I saw. It is quite simply, unforgettable.

I was right in assuming the film would not push the boundaries of what can be shown in regards to graphic violence and gore. But it comes really close. It makes Park Chan-Wook's entire Vengeance Trilogy look about as violent as the Toy Story Trilogy. Blood sprays, flies, drips, gushes – every verb or way blood can possibly flow out of the human body occurs over the course of the film. It relishes in it no matter if the shot is raw, unflinching and real, or hyper stylized and completely over-the-top. One sequence involving a brutal double murder as the camera swoops around the scene in a circle is simply magnificent to watch, both to see how much blood is spilt and for how wicked and incredible a shot it is.

The revenge tale at the core of I Saw the Devil is not all too original, but it is the story and idea around it that is. Very rarely do we see a film with two characters that start off completely different, but very slowly become all in the same. Dae-hoon and Kyung-chul are both very stubborn individuals, who will not back down from each other. They just keep at each other, and even as Kyung-chul is continually beaten, abused and victimized, he never once lets up. I keep coming back to a comparison with Batman and The Joker in The Dark Knight, and how those two menaces push each other to their physical limits, and that is exactly what happens in this film. While it was easy to pick sides in Dark Knight, Ji-woon makes it increasingly difficult for the audience to figure out who they should sympathize with here. It is a haunting and blatantly moral-defying story, and its raw and emotional undertones are more than difficult to swallow.

But the key problem I found with the film is Ji-woon's lack of ability to know when to cut. There are easily twenty minutes that could be chopped right out of the film, and none of its edge would be lost in the process. I was glued to the screen for the majority of the film, but found myself checking my watch more than once because I was totally baffled as to why it runs over 140 minutes. There is only so much revenge one can take and comprehend, and having the film run so long makes it all too easy to call out as being self-indulgent. I respect the film, and I respect Ji-woon as a filmmaker (I wanted to seek out the rest of his film catalogue immediately after the lights came up), but it just makes such an incredible movie feel a bit sloppy and weakened as a cohesive package.

Another inconsistent element is Lee's Dan-hoon. We never learn much about him outside of his being a secret agent and wanting to inflict as much pain as he can through his revenge scheme. So how are we to assume he was not a sick and twisted individual in the first place? How are we to know this is not his first time inflicting such a painful revenge? He rarely speaks, and his cold, calculating eyes never once give us a hint of any further development. It is a great performance by Lee, but it is one that feels very underdeveloped – outside of some rather obvious sequences.

But then, anyone would look underdeveloped when standing next to Choi. The man gives a performance that is the stuff of legend. He was incredible as the lead in Oldboy as the man who was wronged, and is even better as the wrongdoer here. He brings out the monster in Kyung-chul all too easily, and his riveting performance is unmissable. The transformation into this disgusting, psychopathic creature is nothing short of amazing. He chews up scenery at every turn, and is magnetic on screen. Nothing even comes close to equaling the power, intensity and dare I say authenticity he puts into this character. He is the stuff of nightmares.

I Saw the Devil is a great revenge thriller, but is far from perfect. Choi's electric performance alone should become required viewing for anyone with any interest in film.

8/10.

(An edited version of this review also appeared on http://www.geekspeakmagazine.com).

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75 out of 102 people found the following review useful:

"A real complete revenge."

10/10
Author: ElijahCSkuggs from Happy Land, who lives in a Gumdrop House on Lolly Pop Lane
27 November 2010

Are most revenge stories totally complete? Is Hammurabi's Code not good enough? An eye for an eye, a life for a life? 'I Saw the Devil' doesn't think so, and I have to agree.

With top Korean names as Ji-Woon Kim (A Bittersweet Life, Tale of Two Sisters), Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life) and the always amazing Min-Sik Choi (everything), this film had some lofty expectations, and I can easily say that whatever expectations I had, they were smashed, bashed, and slashed into smithereens and finally, thrown out the window.

Wronged by the blood-thirsty psycho Choi, Agent Byhung takes vengeance into his own hands in unrelenting fashion. And boy howdy, we got some serious, flesh-ripping and bone-shattering revenge here. Mix in great direction, cinematography, choreography, music, and, of course, dynamite acting, you've got one fantastic flick.

Not long into the film, I began to wonder if Min-Sik Choi was delivering one of the all-time anti-hero performances, and for a minute or two, I was definitely thinking that this was the case. However, those anti-hero thoughts were quickly dashed away - he's straight up evil. Always the reliable actor, Min-Sik may have out-done himself; he successfully transformed into one of cinema's most memorable serial killer/villains.

Beyond wishing for a stronger emotional impact, this film is just perfect stuff in my eyes. Serial killer movies are being made brilliantly by our beloved brothers from South Korea, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart with big hugs and kisses.

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93 out of 143 people found the following review useful:

Exquisite, effective and merciless

8/10
Author: barnezboi from South Korea
18 August 2010

First and foremost, much of this movie borders on, for lack of a better word, the obscene. There are plenty of scenes that bring to mind soft-core pornography, and the violence is incredibly gory and at times, over the top. Some of the actions performed on screen will make most viewers squirm uncomfortably, while a vast majority of those that aren't will let the audience's mind drift to some very, very scary places.

In short, its a visceral thriller. The movie is essentially driven by both lead characters trying to inflict as much pain and terror in one another as possible. Unlike most serial killer/crime thrillers, both the two characters collide (in violent, brutal fashion) with one another many, many times, leaving each other bloodied and eager for the next encounter. During these scenes, the movie takes on an unexpected action tone, with plenty of engaging fights that include knives, scythes, screwdrivers and in one scene, a fire extinguisher. In between these scenes the audience is shown the full depravity of the serial killer's psychopathic nature, who pretty much succeeds on setting the bar for on screen insanity.

If this sounds like a mindless action/thriller summer film, you'd be mistaken. Both Choi M.S and Lee B.H deliver great performances, with Choi in particular acting disturbingly convincing as a completely unhinged maniac. The plot, although somewhat predictable, is nonetheless entertaining and once set in motion, incredibly gripping. There are plenty of cheap "boo! gotcha" scares, but some scenes are masterfully crafted to generate a LOT of tension. Believe me when I say that there were plenty of scenes where you could literally see that the rest of the audience wasn't even breathing, much less moving. As mentioned earlier, the action scenes are shot surprisingly well, and there's a certain pleasure to be derived from watching the hunter become hunted... and in such an exquisite, effective and merciless manner.

On an aside, the movie seems to have remake potential with Hollywood production. Perhaps starring Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. (as a serial killer? wouldn't you be terrified?), with maybe... Danny Boyle at the helm? Hopefully the movie does well enough in its release to receive any considerations.

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36 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Ugly and visceral serial killer movie.

9/10
Author: HumanoidOfFlesh from Chyby, Poland
24 January 2011

The plot of "I Saw the Devil" revolves around a detective whose beautiful fiancée is savagely murdered by a vicious psychopath played by "Oldboy" himself Min-Sik Choy.Despairing cop quickly tracks down the psycho,tortures him a little and lets him free to play his own gruesome catch-and-release game...Hauntingy beautiful and sickeningly violent thriller from the director of mesmerizing "A Tale of Two Sisters".The cinematography is gorgeous,the action is hypnotic and the murders are savage and unrelenting.The plot is extremely dark and demented,so I was utterly enthralled.You will feel pain,agony and sadness in every inch of your body during "I Saw the Devil".The best serial killer movie since "The Silence of the Lambs".Watch it in pair with Gerald Kargl's "Angst" and be amazed.9 serial killers out of 10.

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43 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

Best serial killer movie since Se7en

9/10
Author: Greg (gregmoroberts@yahoo.com) from Oakville, Ontario
15 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Prior to my screening on I Saw the Devil at the Toronto International Film Festival, all I knew about the film was the one sentence provided to me by IMDb.com: A secret agent tracks a serial killer who murdered his fiance. But I did know that the film was directed by Ji-woon Kim who helmed last year's brilliant, the Good, The Bad and The Weird. And on the strength of that resume entry alone, I secured tickets to I Saw the Devil. To say that I wasn't prepared for what I was about to screen was an understatement. And I certainly wasn't prepared to comment that I Saw the Devil is the best film about a serial killer since Se7en. The film begins with the serial killer abducting a female victim. After nearly destroying her head with a hammer, he dismembers her and disposes of the various body parts. A search ensues, and her head is found is shallow waters. We learn that the murdered young girl was the fiance of Kim So-Hyun who happens to be some kind of Special Service bodyguard. She also was the daughter of the former Chief of Police. Kim So-Hyun abruptly takes two weeks off work and begins a manhunt for his finances killer. He has narrowed it down to four possibilities and after roughing up the first two (multiple wrench blows to the nuts) he focuses on his third suspect named Kang. We know from the opening scene that Kang is indeed the killer and when Kim So-Hyun breaks into his home, he realizes he has found his man. But instead of turning Kang over to justice, Kim decides that he will beat, torture and then release Kang over and over again tormenting him without peace. A transmitter swallowed unwillingly by Kang allows Kim to follow his every move. The next reels of film will follow as Kim dispels some incredibly violent and bloody vengeance on Kang. Using everything from rocks to plastic bags to fire extinguishers and fish hooks, Kim will enter Kang's life, beat him near death, then leave him to his wounds only to hunt him down and beat him some more. The scenes of the beatings are not for the faint of heart as I Saw the Devil is not for the squeamish. I scalpel to the foot and the cutting of the Achilles tendon got the biggest reaction from the crowd, but there is enough blood and torture afflicted here to give anyone nightmares. Ji-woon Kim brilliantly weaves a tale that has not been shown in film before. Our two leads meet each other early in the film whereas most serial killer films don't pit the law and the maniac on the screen together until the final act. Kim clearly has the upper hand until a turn of events allow Kang to again strike back. It's like two heavyweight boxers standing in the ring going toe-to-toe in a crowd pleasing match of heavy blows. And just when Kang takes control again and tries to surrender to police, Kim again finds a way to avenge his family. Byung-hun Lee as Kim and Min-sik Choi as Kang, are brilliantly cast and bring an energy to the screen that is maintained through the 144 minutes of the uncut edit. The supporting cast which essentially involves further Kang victims or unsavory characters that deserve their fates, do just enough to distract us from the brutality of the one-on-one battle and allow us to catch our breath (barely) before the carnage begins anew. It's been a while since I have been so invigorated and involved in a film such as I Saw the Devil that I wanted to climb the highest mountain and sing its praises, but this film delivers the goods. Rarely do you find an audience involved with that much violence on screen, cheering and applauding when a character utters, "I'm far from done" during a blood soaked frenzy of activity. I didn't just see the devil. I saw the best serial killer movie in many years and clearly one that goes in my Top 5 serial killer films of all time.

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33 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

A superbly acted, grotesquely gorgeous crime thriller.

10/10
Author: chrismsawin from United States
16 April 2011

Director Jee-woon Kim along with actors Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi are three of the most talented people in Korean cinema today. Jee-woon has done such films as A Bittersweet Life and The Good, the Bad, the Weird, which both starred Byung-hun and Min-sik is most recognized for his performance in Oldboy, but was also fairly impressive in the drama Crying Fist among many others. Oldboy is really the film that made me love Korean cinema. So when word broke that these three marvelous people were getting together to make a film, I knew I was already there. A little thriller called I Saw the Devil came together and became one of the most spectacularly intense thrillers to be released in quite some time.

Late one snowy, winter night, a woman named Joo-yeon (San-ha Oh) sits stranded in her car waiting for a tow truck to arrive and help her fix a flat tire. She talks to her fiancé, Dae-hoon (Byung-hun), over the phone as she waits. It's Joo-yeon's birthday and Dae-hoon, a secret agent, gets caught up with work and can't be there with her on her special day. A strange man shows up and begins to pester Joo-yeon about fixing the tire himself. After declining his help, the man known as Kyung-chul (Min-sik) attacks Joo-yeon before brutally murdering her. Kyung-chul is actually a notorious serial killer who mostly kills women and young girls. As the investigation unfolds, Dae-hoon swears merciless revenge on Kyung-chul and a deadly game of cat and mouse begins. Does Dae-hoon really know when this game will end or has he already become a bigger monster than the man he now preys upon? The chemistry between Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi is what really drives the film. Byung-Hun is the broken down shell of a man when he's not in the hunt, so to speak. He has several emotional breakdowns that are incredibly heart wrenching, but the urge he has to make this bloodthirsty maniac pay for taking the love of his life away takes a front seat to any sort of emotion he once had. Byung-hun portrays the struggle his character has between sadness and revenge flawlessly. Min-sik plays the role of a lunatic incredibly well. His character seems to lack that which makes a person who they are; morals, a conscience, and above all a soul. Killing is the only thing that brings out the real Kyung-Chul. His first initial reaction to someone trying to beat him at his own game is agitation and borderline out of control rage, but once he regains control he not only enjoys himself but claims it's the most fun he's ever had. Min-sik acts level headed when his kills go well, but the way he expresses how insane his character really is when things go bad for him is what makes his performance so memorable. While the scenes where Byung-hun and Min-sik fight with each other are great for obvious reasons, there's a scene at the end of the film where they both have a heart to heart conversation that is just spectacular. Every little glimpse you have of that confrontation leading up to that point is fantastic, as well.

Jee-woon Kim certainly knows how to shoot a beautiful looking film. Lush and vibrant colors make grisly murders and spontaneous revenge tactics look much more pleasant than the blood that endlessly splatters all over every wall and floor in the film. Other than the brilliant colors, the cinematography is rather unique as well. There's a scene near the end of the film where Dae-Hoon is walking toward the camera on a deserted road. It's simple and shot like we're basically walking backwards in front of him while staring directly at his face. He eventually begins to cry; an uncontrollable sobbing. The way the scene is shot along with Byung-hun's performance made it one of the more memorable scenes in the film. There's another where Kyung-Chul gets picked up by a taxi. He gets into the front passenger seat while there's another man in the back, so there are three people in the car altogether including the driver. Kyung-Chul realizes he's going to have to beat these guys to the punch, so as their adrenaline escalates the camera rotates around the inside of the car. You get this continuous 360 degree shot of the action occurring inside this cab. It's amazing.

Leave it to another Korean thriller revolving around revenge to make an impression on me. Jee-woon Kim's I Saw the Devil is a superbly acted, exceptionally written, grotesquely gorgeous film that'll make you cringe during some of the more horrific and blood soaked acts in the film while secretly leave you craving so much more. That craving is satisfied thanks to the interactions and chemistry between actors Byung-hun Lee and Min-Sik Choi. The disturbing content in the film is more than enough to satisfy the hungriest gore hounds out there while the captivating story will please anyone looking for something more than someone being chopped to pieces. I Saw the Devil is one of the most morbidly delightful films to be released in recent years.

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22 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

A bloody masterpiece

10/10
Author: thedrake from Canada
12 June 2011

I Saw The Devil is a bloody masterpiece. Jee-woon Kim has proved himself to be a master storyteller. Beautiful shots, a creative script, perfect acting and intense violence make I Saw The Devil a must-see movie for anyone who calls themselves a horror fan.

It's a breath of fresh air in a seemingly stagnant genre full of the same old vampire and zombie stories being retold over and over. And yes, there have been loads of revenge movies before, but I Saw The Devil takes it to the next level.

Gritty, dark, gory and original: I loved this movie, and I don't like anything. I just hope an American company doesn't comes along to make a shallow remake (Let The Right One In).

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Brutal & Brilliant

9/10
Author: shark-43 from L.A. CA
14 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I SAW THE DEVIL is a brutal, bloody, shocking and very effective crime drama. A psychopath has killed many young girls and when one of them turns out to be the pregnant fiancé of a government agent - the agent takes matter into his own hands to track down the killer and make him pay. Now in many American movies, the hero would spend the whole movie tracking the guy down then finally have him cornered on the roof of a skyscraper or the edge of waterfall, etc and then he'd say a corny quip and blow the guy away. But in this amazing Korean film, the agent finds the killer early on and injures him badly and then says "this is just the beginning" - planting in this killer's mind the fear that he will come back for him - he doesn't know how or when. The psychological aspect of the hunter and the hunted is very powerful and the performances are incredible. One of the best actors of the planet (Min-sik Choi) who was so brilliant as the lead in OLD BOY, is once again, fantastic as the twisted killer. This movie might not be for everyone - the camera never flinches from any brutality and violence. But the under the surface sorrow and pain of the agent carries the emotional wallop that punches the viewer at the very end.

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