I SAW THE DEVIL is a shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished tale of murder and revenge. The embodiment of pure evil, Kyung-chul is a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. On a freezing, snowy night, his latest victim is the beautiful Juyeon, daughter of a retired police chief and pregnant fiancée of elite special agent Soo-hyun. Obsessed with revenge, Soo-hyun is determined to track down the murderer, even if doing so means becoming a monster himself. And when he finds Kyung-chul, turning him in to the authorities is the last thing on his mind, as the lines between good and evil fall away in this diabolically twisted game of cat and mouse.
One of the most controversial films of the last year was made no less controversial by the multiple home video releases that followed its theatrical play. Trying to keep track of which country was releasing which cut turned into a full time job for those of us who bravely made the attempt. In the end, I mostly gave up. I can say that Magnet have released the International Cut for the USA and Optimum in the UK have released the Korean cut. The run times only differ by two minutes (142 for the International and 144 for the Korean), however, is seems that there are greater differences regarding the editing than simply cut scenes. If you are interested in the gory details, you can visit the site linked below, which has a comprehensive listing of the differences.
Most critical response to the film itself was positive, that is outside of ScreenAnarchy, where the initial reviews from TIFF 2010 were decidedly mixed. While Swarez thought that:
I Saw The Devil is a nut kicker of a film, powerful and brutal, funny and sad and not the torture porn that it might sound like it is.
While Kurt was less impressed with the film beyond its excesses, saying:
Anyone expecting to find deeper spiritual or moral probing along the lines of Park Chan-Wook's trilogy is asking too much. It seems that Kim Jee-woon has been on the path where his films get less deep and more in love with their own excesses with each entry..,Kim's films, I Saw The Devil included, remain fun and exciting affairs, but do not engage the brain or the soul much beyond the basic concept.
I was pretty impressed by the film. Perhaps it's excesses could be seen as a distraction and for some they may appear to suck the soul out of the film, but I can see other possibilities. I saw the film's devolution into one horrific set piece after another as a mirror for the mind of Lee Byung-Hun's Soo Hyun. As Soo Hyun moves further and further from being and feeling human, so do his actions and the film's obsession with the gory details reflect that deterioration. Soo Hyun doesn't see his victim as human, and as such, he feels no compunction to treat him as one, or, in reality, to feel anything. Soo Hyun is shown regressing to a very base form of himself, and his tunnel vision informs the film and its point of view. Then again, I could be talking out of my ass.I Saw the Devil
is the type of film that sticks with you. It is brutal and beautiful, something that wasn't expecting. I was a bit unsettled at my own reaction to these increasingly gruesome scenes that were shot with such precision and care that that are just beautiful to watch, even though we are watching a woman being dismembered or sexually violated. It felt odd to admire those scenes so much, in light of what was going on on-screen. However, the film is immaculately shot, every frame is a work of art and carefully designed for maximum visceral impact in a way that very few films take the time for. It is difficult sometimes to reconcile the images on the screen with the feelings I have about the actions, and this film definitely blurs the line between exploitation and art. Whatever side it comes down on, and both options are valid, I like it!
Magnet's Blu-ray of I Saw the Devil
is a thing of beauty. The film's outrageous and at times hyper-stylized color scheme is accurately represented and there is no sign of any digital funny business. The image is sharp and crisp, and at no time during the film did I notice any faults whatsoever with the transfer. My copy experiences a minor hiccup toward the end, however, I haven't read about that in any other copies, so I'm racking that up to my fingerprints (oops!). The audio is equally impressive. Magnet have provided a wonderful Korean language DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is incredibly immersive. Sounds come at you from everywhere, the read surrounds are utilized incredibly well, and at times had me fooled, thinking that things going on in the film were happening in my own room, which is a horrifying thought for this film. I must, however, mention, that this disc houses the worst English dub I've ever heard, I'll leave it at that.
Extras on the disc are small in number, but relatively content heavy. There are about 24 minutes of deleted scenes. A number of these scenes surely could have found a home in the film, as they provide clarity about a couple of points and plot developments that are only peripherally addressed in the finished film, however, I didn't miss them or feel confused by their absence. For those interested, the deleted scenes do contain a rough sex scene that was in the Korean cut of the film that seems to be the most glaring omission from the International cut. There is also the "Raw and Rough" making-of footage which runs about 27 minutes and features a lot of behind the scenes footage as well as interviews with most of the major players, including the stunt/action coordinator and director Kim, himself. It is relatively brief, but it provides a good window into the making of the film.
Magnet Releasing have given I Saw the Devil
an excellent home video release for the US with this Blu-ray, and I have no problem recommending the disc. There is the question of cut status, and I wish it were an easy answer, but it just isn't. Completists might want to add the Region B disc from Optimum just to have all the options.
Magnet Releasing's I Saw the Devil
Blu-ray is presented on a Region A locked disc.
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