Having been firmly in the Chan Wook Park camp (Oldboy, Thirst, Sympathy for Mr.Vengance) I was amazed by the brilliance of 'A Tale of Two Sisiters' during a recent, belated viewing A Tale Of Two Sisters [DVD] [2004
]. Hence, since then I've been a huge fan of Jee Woon Kim and his back catalogue.
I have been really looking forward to 'I Saw The Devil' and boy, did it deliver the goods. I've found in the past that some of his work has been a little patient, in that everything takes a while to get going. Whilst 'A Tale of Two Sisters' is simply brillant, it is an example case to some extent.
On the contrary, you won't have a minute to catch your breath with 'I Saw The Devil' as it explodes into life in no uncertain terms, with a very violent and gut-wrenching murder. The pace never slackens and the running time slips by as your thrown from one gripping situation to another.
Revenge is the main theme, but there are a lot of clever 'is he doing the right thing' questions posed to the audience throughout. The acting, especially from 'Oldboy' himself and Lee Byung-Hun (A Bittersweet Life) is faultless. The tearful breakdown of the main character (Byung-Hun) in the final scene is as much a release for the character as it is for the ultra tense viewer. Again, a very provocative ending, one that is becoming a trademark of this superb director.
It's worth stating the obvious by saying that this is not 'easy' viewing; there are some pretty brutal and graphic scenes, but importantly, all are justified and all are used to heighten the sympathy/hatred for each of the respective lead characters.
'I Saw The Devil' is in some ways more sophisticated than many similar films in it's tight genre. Gratuitous it isn't, but brutal, intense and utterly brilliant it most certainly is.
A stone-wall 5 Stars.