I SAW THE DEVIL (AKMAREUL BOATDA)
(director/writer: Kim Jee-woon; screenwriter: Hoon-jung Park; cinematographer: Lee Mogae; editor: Na-young Nam; music: Mowg; cast: (Byung-hun Lee (Soon-hyun Kim), Min-sik Choi (Kyung-chul Jang), Gook-hwan Jeon (Detective Jang), Moon-seong Choi (Tae-ju), Ho-jin Jeon (Section Chief Joh), Yoon-seo Kim (Se-yeon Jang), San-ha Oh (Joo-yeon Jang), Kim In-seo (Se-jung); Runtime: 142; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kim Hyun Woo; Magnolia Picture; 2010-S. Korea-in Korean with English subtitles)
“Senseless and inane sicko revenge pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Korean J-horror film director Kim Jee-woon (“A Tale Of Two Sisters”/”The Quiet Family”/”Three”) hits the violence button on all cylinders in this senseless and inane sicko revenge pic, that plays out as an idiotic bloody cat-and-mouse movie between the psycho serial killer and an arrogant twisted elite special agent trying to do him one better in the psycho department. The bloody film leads us on a gruesome trail of unrelenting calculated brutality, which makes it too bad that such crap is so stylish, well-crafted and well-acted. Even the blood on the snow makes a pretty visual, as the many mutilations seem to be the sole pleasure to behold. The screenplay by Hoon-jung Park takes us to places that are shocking but offers no insight into an evil killer (except he’s evil and can’t be reformed) or an insight into his unbalanced pursuer, whose aim is to use his fighting skills to catch-and-release the killer and thereby have a chance to repeatedly re-capture and maim his prey and not to kill himuntil the ‘most painful moment’. Now if you don’t think that plot-line is over-the-top mental, then you should have no trouble that the sadistic horror genre pic has no redeeming social value.
Kyung-chul Jang (Min-sik Choi) is a serial killer psycho, who enjoys raping and brutally killing women. When the pregnant girlfriend, Joo-yeon Jang (Yoon-seo Kim), of National Intelligence Service agent Soon-hyun Kim (Byung-hun Lee), gets a flat tire on a remote road in the snowy countryside just outside of Seoul, she’s bludgeoned to death and her body mutilated by Jang. Her body parts are found at Bangho Creek. Thereby the depressed Soon takes a two-week leave from his job and schemes to track down the killer and inflict pain on him, as revenge. The boyfriend confers with the victim’s depressed father, retired police chief Jang (Gook-hwan Jeon), who agrees with the rogue mission and gives him leads on who the police suspect.
When Soon captures and tortures the killer, he puts a high-tech GPS capsule down his mouth that allows him to quickly locate Jang’s location after his release. Jang then goes on for a few more times capturing and beating the killer, only to release him so he can hunt him down again and inflict more pain. He does so even though Jang adds more victims to his list after every release. The pic leaves police procedural and serial killer genre turf and becomes an outrageous and not too credible study in monster violence. As one might expect, Soon’s wacky scheme goes wrong and for the moment the deranged Jang is winning the battle of the revenge game. The cold film ends in graphic destruction, as it blends together unseemly violence and unfunny black comedy into a sick joke. It’s a film that I found disappointing because it’s tasteless, revolting and exploitative. That it makes the obvious point that revenge can turn one into a monster, hardly justifies its amorality and graphic violence throughout that only offers a series of cheap thrills.
REVIEWED ON 12/14/2011 GRADE: C