How Kim Jee-Woon Pulled Off I Saw The Devil's Frantic Taxi Scene

One of the most tense and memorable scenes in the South Korean serial killer thriller "I Saw the Devil" is set in a moving taxi. The killer, Jang Joo-yun, played by Choi Min-sik of "Oldboy" fame, is walking along the road at night after being beaten up in his greenhouse by Kim Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), the government agent whose wife he murdered. A taxi comes along and stops for him, and he gets in, but there's already another sketchy guy in the backseat. The driver's face doesn't match the one on the dashboard ID, a detail that might go missed if you're not paying attention when the camera pans around 360 degrees at one point.

The scene soon explodes into violence, with the wily Joo-yun pre-emptively attacking the other two men (bandits who have stowed the real driver's body in the trunk of the cab) as the camera orbits the interior of the car while it is moving. It's a visceral piece of filmmaking. 

In an interview with Bloody Disgusting, Min-sik unpacked some of the movie magic that enabled director Kim Jee-woon and company to pull off such a technically adroit scene, with camerawork reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men." The actor said:

"The external shots were shot previously, and we composited those in. So the backgrounds of the [scene] were shot and composited later...but the interior shots of the cab were shot in a studio. What we did was we took the body of a taxicab, cut off the top of it, replaced it with panels that were acrylic so that you could see through the taxi to the interior, and we spun that taxi contraption around. And we had the camera moving back and forth out of frame, in and out, and we had the taxi spinning physically in there as well."

Run those blood-stained costumes through the laundry

Blood and gore spatter everywhere in "I Saw the Devil," and not just in the taxi scene. In addition to the technical challenges of shooting a knife fight inside a revolving car interior, the actors also had to deal with the demands of shooting multiple takes. Each take required them to put on a fresh set of clothes since their costumes from the previous take were now covered with blood.

Evidently, they did it enough times that they soon realized they were out of fresh clothes. Min-sik explained:

"What was interesting was that we had costumes prepared for that scene, obviously because there's so much blood spilling out in that scene, we had to change the costumes into new ones each time. We changed costumes about three times, but for the fourth time, because we didn't have multiple copies of the clothing, we had to actually quickly wash one set of clothes. And even though it wasn't completely dry, we had to put those on and shoot it again for a fourth time. And it was the fourth [take when]...we had that scene down."

"I Saw the Devil" contains another memorable scene toward the end where Joo-yun tries to turn himself into the police, only to be snatched up by Soo-hyun, who has knocked the door off his SUV and come speeding along to grab him so he can enact his own personal revenge for his wife's death. It seems he just can't escape the inside of cars ...