4 out of 5
Director: Kim Ji-Woon
“I Saw the Devil” confirms director Ji-woon Kim’s spot as a master of capturing striking and memorable images on screen. While his layering doesn’t seem up to the task of dealing with the depth offered in the plot, the consistency of the film sets him drastically apart from the hit-or-miss stylings of Chan-wook Park. “I Saw the Devil”‘s plot is easy to sum up – a serial killer kills the pregnant fiancee of special agent Dae-hoon, who, instead of seeking direct revenge, decides to go into eye for an eye territory, following the killer around, maiming him and releasing him… then capturing him again and repeating and repeating. The respect offered to the characters and the brilliant use of light really bring this beyond horror and to a mature level – Min-sik Choi (from Oldboy, womp) is brilliant as the killer, his acting and the script never allowing us to brush him off as stupid, or simply unhinged, but recognizing him as a full character who has decidedly developed into an f-ed up being. Similarly for our lead, who mostly balances the emotional heft and blind determination of his character. I say mostly because this is where the film fails a bit – there is a brilliant juxtaposition of red and blue light that seems to suggest some balance of good and evil, but it never congeals into something resonant, and the same goes for our story. Byung-hun Lee (the special agent) has tears for his lover to contrast his lack of remorse over his actions, but the film builds toward a climax that never seems to really wrestle with these themes as much as to roll the good and evil dice and let our characters take their turns. Regardless, it is all captured patiently and gorgeously, and though the inability of the script / film to mature to a coherent point keeps it from being perfect, the intense focus on making this a thoughtful film keeps it far from being just a grisly slasher or – to compare to Chan-wook Park – heavy handed.