Directed by: Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik
Country: Korea, Asian Cinema
Genres: Revenge, Detective/Mystery, Gore-Gruesome-Splatter, Rape/Sexual Violence against Women, Serial Killers, Torture
Plot – Spoilers:
Lee Byung-hun plays a Korean Secret Service agent whose girlfriend is one snowy night, kidnapped and brutally murdered by a serial killer played by Choi Min-sik (of Old Boy fame). Choi has a collection of women’s souvenirs suggesting he has a large number of kills under him. This is also indicated during one killing scene when he guillotines a woman and looks bored and curious as her head rolls away – almost like he has raped and killed so many women he now has to find new ways to amuse himself.
The theme of I Saw the Devil is primarily Revenge as Lee embarks on a mission to find his lover’s killer and give him a death that is 10,000 times more painful than his girlfriend received. In doing so, he loses all of his moral balance and becomes the monster he is attempting to fight.
His hatred and pain is so great that he feels unsatisfied to simply torture and kill the killer – he instead chooses to find him, brutalize him and then release him. Then find him again, torture him and release him once again. Like smug cats allegedly do with helpless rats.
There are some very artistic shots throughout the movie such as Choi dragging a blood soaked body down a pristine white snowy road or the beautifully visualized decapitated head found floating in a moonlit river.
The first couple of times Choi is cornered by Lee, he shows a genuine fear at being up against someone who seems as deranged or worse than him. This is especially evident when Lee breaks into the clinic while Choi is getting the virginal nurse to blow him.