In preparation to watch Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw The Devil at the Toronto International Film Festival, I watched his previous films A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, The Weird just to get to know the director a little better. His unique style for violence and revenge were portrayed beautifully across a palette of original characters across his recent three films. However, I was a little disheartened discovering that Kim did not write the screenplay for I Saw The Devil, raising unneeded presumptions leading up to the screening. But it mattered very little that he did not write it. Did not matter at all.
WARNING: The following review may contain spoilers for Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw The Devil.
Kim Ji-woon came on stage before the film and referenced his previous film at the TIFF (The Good, The Bad, The Weird) stating that he labeled it as a “Kimchi Western”. He then introduced I Saw The Devil saying that we should view it as a “Kimchi Revenge Film”, as it contains all the spiciness the staple Korean dish also has. Little did we know that this spiciness director Kim referred to was a whole lot of gore and blood.
I Saw The Devil is essentially an animalistic narrative of predator and prey embodied into a modern Korean context but the roles are interchangeable. Choi Min-sik (known for his role in Old Boy) plays a Kyung-chul, a violent and dangerous psychopathic killer whose prey consists of young females. One night the daughter of a former police chief became his victim and was consequently the fiancé for the film’s protagonist Dae-hoon played by Lee Byun-hun, whom Kim worked with in previous films. After days of grief and sadness, Dae-hoon sets off to execute his revenge on the killer. He would viciously wound Kyung-chul but keep him alive just to find him using a tracking device and hurt him again. What he thought was a perfect plan of retribution backfired on him in painful ways he thought could never happen again.
This epic story of a revenge film is essentially Kill Bill meets Hostel meets Silence Of The Lambs packaged into the undyingly entertaining style of Kim Ji-woon. The Korea Media Rating Board forced Kim to re-edit the film due to its violent content. But luckily for the TIFF audience, we were able to see the extended version with all the violent bloody scenes intact. Director Kim stated after the screening that although he is not a violent person, his vision for the film was mainly fueled by what he would do if he were put in the same situation. He would become a monster himself in order to take revenge on a real monster.
I think overall that’s what myself and most people took away from the film. When your whole world comes crashing down because of a lunatic, would you risk it all in order to deliver the most unimaginable, gruesome and cruel pain to that person responsible?
I would, so be careful (:
Next, Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud’s Red Nights.