A few years ago a friend and I were talking about the postmortem effects of watching Chan-wook Park’s ‘Oldboy‘. We came to the conclusion that it felt almost necessary to take a shower afterwards. This is by no means a negative review of this film. Dare I say it is one of the greatest films ever concieved. I think that it speaks to the power of the film. When a movie leaves a viewer physically ill, in love, or with a happy sense of euphoria the filmmaker has done his job. ‘Oldboy’ was an entrance ticket to the wonderful world of pulp Korean cinema. For a long time I thought the likes of Fruit Chan and Takashi Miike were the bees knees of twisted asian cinema. Truth be told, the Koreans hold their own.
‘I Saw the Devil‘ has a bit of fun with the concept of revenge. It starts with the heinous murder of a secret agent’s fiance. We meet the killer quickly and the secret agents finds him even quicker. In essence the movie should be over as the secret agent can get swift revenge to heal his ailing soul. Quite the opposite. He beats the craps out of the killer then leaves him a wad of money, egging him on to keep killing. So begins a psychological game of chase. The secret agents begins to cross the very lines that separate him from the killer. Both are willing to go to extreme ends but they share one vast difference which I often overlooked: motive. The secret agent has no more righteous a motive than revenge, but the killer has none or so it would seem. The idea of killing a killer is much too simple, too easy. So the devilish task is to find out what breaks man with no soul. Fascinating, violent, pretty damn entertaining.
Its a bloody film, no doubt, but again I cannot stress more that films like this and ‘Oldboy’ hold so much more than the American splatterfests that seem to be invading our screen space for cheap thrills. I keep watching Korean cinema because I am looking for the next great film that gets under your skin. There are murders but they hold more presence than just slicing a person up. Look beyond the blood and you will two very fascinating characters. The title is misleading in that you should be wondering which character actually believes he is seeing his own devil.