Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: I Saw the Devil

You know I usually do my reviews right after I watch the film, or maybe a day later. But this film was so intense; I had to actually wait a couple of weeks to let it all the madness sink in. This masterpiece of mayhem is brought to us by premier Korean director Park Chan-wook, who also brought us the disgustingly awesome 'Cut' segment from the underrated horror film 'Three Extremes'. It also just so happens to star two of the best working Korean actors today, veteran Choi Min-sik from 'Oldboy' fame and the dashing Lee Byung-hun, who also plays Storm Shadow from 'G.I. Joe'. Throw these three together and what you are left with is a haunting horror film filled with beautiful imagery, terrific acting, and blood a plenty.

                              He seems so unnaturally calm doesn't he?

The film starts out with one of our main characters Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) and his fiancĂ© Joo-yun (Oh San-ha) chatting on the phone while she is driving through a desolate stretch of mountain road. I know, I know this is how many horror movies start, but stay with me. Her car breaks down and she is forced to the side of the road to wait for a tow truck. This is when our main villain shows up. Kyung-chul is played devilishly (pun intended) brilliant here by Choi Min-sik. Unfortunately for Joo-yun, Kyung-chul just happens to be there with bells on. In a very brutal opening scene, Kyung-chul beats her near to death and then takes her back to his lair for some unremorseful fun in his chamber of horrors. It is a very powerful and somewhat sad scene that shows us just how psychotic Kyung-chul really is. Once her dismembered body shows up in the local river, the movie then switches to Soo-hyun. It becomes his mission to find whoever is responsible and make them pay dearly. And I do mean dearly. See, Soo-hyun just so happens to be a top government secret agent of some sort and all around badass. This is not good news for Kyung-chul as the movie shows us throughout. What culminates is a cat and mouse game where the hunter becomes the hunted. Much pain and blood shall be felt by many on both sides before this one is over. The ending will leave you speechless.

                           Soo-hyun looking like he's ready to kick some ass!

The acting is stellar all around here. Lee Byung-hun as the stoic secret agent Soo-hyun works very well here. His descent into depravity and sadness is shown to us with great force and power. Choi Min-sik as his nemesis Kyung-chul  shows us a masterpiece of insanity. Not since Hannibal Lecter have I seen such brutality and madness translated on screen so effectively. Every time he looks at someone you just know he's not thinking good thoughts. Director Park Chan-wook brings us some terrific scenes filled with blood and the anticipation of more blood. One wonderfully directed and chair gripping scene is when a couple of bandits try to pick up and rob our bad guy. Kyung-chul figures out what's going on and it gets messy from there. Chan-wook manages to capture some great acting as well from some of the supporting cast. He makes us care just as much about Soo-yun's father Det. Jang and the lead detective on the case Det. Oh as we do about the leads. Even Kyung-chul's cannibal friend Tae-joo (Choi Moo-sung) is given time to shine and shows us some new and wonderful horrors. Well done Mr., Chan-wook.

                                  Kyung-chul doesn't look too happy here.

This film is hard to review because there is almost nothing wrong with it. I must say the movie could have been a tad shorter and the pacing at times could be slow. But, that really doesn't matter too much when you're glued to your seat trying to figure out what's going to happen next. The film really keeps you involved and that's why it works so well. Not just because of the blood and guts, mind you it has plenty of that, but the fact that the acting and story are so well done here. That's what Hollywood needs to understand. You can make a longer horror movie that revolves around actual acting just as much as it does the blood and storyline, while still making a good movie. Definitely check this one out horror fanatics. You will not be disappointed 5/5 skulls.

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