Violent revenge flicks are pretty much heroin for most film fans. We inject the works of Park Chan-Wook  and Takashi Miike directly into our veins, swooning in the delights of violence and hyperkinetic cinema. In comparison, Kim Jee-woon is relatively new to the scene. His film, The Good The Bad and the Weird, certainly made a significant blip on film fan’s radar and now with his latest film, I Saw the Devil, Jee-woon has crafted an even more visceral experience. After getting rave reviews as a secret screening at Fantastic Fest 2010, I Saw the Devil has taken the Sundance Film Festival and in turn it’s taken the revenge film, turned it on its head and drenched it with blood. Read more after the break.

I Saw The Devil begins with the brutal murder of a young woman whose father just happens to be a former police chief and fiance is a secret service agent. Once they discover that she’s been killed, the pair focus only on one thing: finding the person responsible and making them pay. Of course we, the audience, already know who the killer is. His name is Kyung-chul and he’s played by Old Boy‘s Choi Min-sik. It’s a performance that’s even more chilling than that one.

To the film’s credit, it gets moving extremely quickly and doesn’t stop for two hours and twenty minutes. But each time the it reaches some sort of logical conclusion, it presses on. It’s as if Jee-woon, along with screenwriter Park Hoon Jung, were both so full of fantastic ideas featuring brutal and violent revenge, they wanted to fit them all in.

But if you like brutal, violence revenge, I Saw The Devil is for you. It revels in showing metal pierce flesh, rock crush bone and various body parts removed. To its credit, the film never feels gratuitous because at each and every turn, you understand the motivations of the characters. And it’s those motivations that separate I Saw The Devil from the run of the mill revenge flick.

The film is never about Character A simply getting revenge on Character B. It deconstructs the entire conceit of revenge by flipping it upside down and spinning it around. At different times during the film, you might sympathize with the murderer, other times, no one is in the right and by the time it’s over, I Saw The Devil leaves the question of right vs. wrong solely in the mind of its audience.

I hesitate to speculate on the place I Saw the Devil might eventually hold among the pantheon of top notch revenge flicks, but, despite its flaws, it certainly makes a strong case for consideration.

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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