Movie Title: Akmareul boatda / I Saw The Devil
Date Released: August 12th, 2010 (South Korea)
Date Seen: May 27th, 2014
Language/Country of Origin: Korean/South Korea
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
A great Korean revenge movie, about a man whose wife is murdered by a serial killer. He then goes on the hunt to find this serial killer and enact his revenge. The plot sounds like one of many you’ve seen before in Revenge thrillers, but this one had a nice little twist to it. I won’t ruin it for you, but it was very good. If you’re a fan of horror, revenge thrillers, or Korean cinema, this one has a great plot, great acting, and is extremely satisfying.
The movie is super gory and yet still manages to have a number of visually striking, yet gorgeous shots. For example, at one point early in the movie (not spoilery since the whole movie is based around this), the killer beats a woman and drags her bloody body off in the snow. The way the shot is set up and the contrast between the snow, the people, and the bright red blood is very nicely done. There we a lot of very simple shots like that that ended up being oddly pretty.
The acting is very well done. One of my favorite things about this movie is the personality differences between the killer, Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), and the man seeking his revenge, Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee). Both should be easily recognized actors, with Min-sik Choi appearing in the Vengeance trilogy, most noticeable as Oh Dae-su in Oldboy. Byung-hun Lee has appeared in a few Hollywood movies, such as GI Joe and Red 2, and of course a number of Korean films, such as The Good, the Bad, and the Weird. So we know they are both fantastic actors. The interesting thing is that the characters are written so that the killer has a MUCH more identifiable personality than that of Soo-hyeon. The killer is funny, amusing, smart, albeit a deeply disturbed individual. He constantly expresses his emotions and can be sort of likeable at times – again despite the fact that he’s a serial killer. Soo-hyeon has just gone through a big loss, but hardly speaks, comes off cold, boring, and disturbed in his own way. When he does express some emotion, it’s rage and anger. Beyond his mission of revenge, there isn’t much to like about this man just from his personality. I really liked that contrast, since it switched the normal roles. Our “hero” wasn’t really an anti-hero, but he didn’t have the personality of the hero, and the killer really was the more personable one.
Again, if you like Korean film, horror/thrillers, or the revenge thriller, this is a very good one to watch and you will enjoy yourself. Going back over my notes I left for myself while watching this movie (most of what is in the spoilery part), nearly every single one started with “I like” or “I love”. I feel like that says a lot about the movie, when comments were continually positive during my initial viewing of the movie.
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review
As I said above, I wrote comments while watching the movie. Below are a number of the comments, talking about specific scenes or thoughts I had while watching the film.
Towards the beginning of the movie, Soo-hyeon is going through the files on the top suspects in this serial killer case. I love that the actual killer is in fact in there. I hate sometimes in movies when the cops have been working on a case for months and this person comes in after a day and solves it all on their own and the cops were completely wrong. I like that he’s getting a starting point and the cops were looking in the right direction, just hadn’t found it yet. Part of that is because, you know, they were doing things in the legal way, and Soo-heyon’s methods aren’t legal – but get results!
I love that Kyung-Chul has a homemade guillotine… and I especially loved that it played a (major) part in his final death.
Related to what I mentioned above, about how the killer seems more like a real person: I like watching Kyung-chul’s parents fight, that part just oddly cracked me up, because the dad clearly knows Soo-hyeon is not there for an “insurance policy”. He has a real family, who is kind of smart, and seems to have an idea that at least their son isn’t doing legal things. They probably don’t actually know what he’s doing, but just know it’s probable that he’s in trouble. I also liked Kyung-chul’s “House of the Rising Sun” on the guitar. Creepy, but both those scenes made him just so much more of a real person to me, rather than just “the cannibal villain”.
Shall we talk about how awesome the greenhouse scene was? Anytime a scythe is a weapon, I’m pretty much down, but this was pretty great anyway. I liked how quick it started, how it went back and forth on who was winning a couple of times, and how quick it was over. It was intense.
Again related to the personality of Kyung-chul, I like that he had a “friend”, albeit a cannibal. Sometimes a killer has “friends” but this seemed to be an actual friendship. For example, Kyung-chul doesn’t just leave the cannibal tied up and completely vulnerable. He does untie him a little bit, giving him a chance to get himself the rest of the way out. That’s strongest hint of an actual relationship we’ve seen him have so far so, hey, good for him. It also further points to him being more relateable than Soo-hyeon.
This movie does have pretty good effects with the blood and gore. There was only one scene where I thought it was done pretty poorly. When the cannibal is killed, you can see the exact moment that the blood pack is punctured and it ends up coming out in a just straight jet of blood. It pulled me out of the movie. But don’t worry, moments later I got pulled right back in because of the “Home Alone” esque fish hooks on the floor. Yikes.
The dumbest decisions made in the movie came from the cops, I thought. For one, the sheriffs daughter. You’d think growing up with your dad being a sheriff/police chief/whatever, you’d think you’d have the good sense to realize when some shit was going down at your house. Oh hey, Dad always answers me when I get here, but he didn’t this time and I see small signs of a struggle… hmmm… Maybe something is wrong? She doesn’t seem to have any of those inclinations. The cops collectively make a dumb decision when Kyung-chul pulls his car over. They’re clearly waiting around to get him – and they also know Soo-hyeon talked to him. Thus it would seem to me that Soo-hyeon might possibly know that Kyung-chul will be there and try some stuff. They should have just grabbed Kyung-chul immediately rather than dicking around for way to long. It’s their own fault for losing him (but I’m glad they did).
Oh and finally at the end of the movie we finally get to see Soo-hyeon with some emotion. His version of mourning, finally. He avenged his fiance (though in a crazy extreme way).
A great gory Korean revenge movie with great acting and a very well done plot.