I saw the movie last night after reading some writers at the AV Club talk about how it was the “revenge movie to end all revenge movies”. Of course, that got me all worked up about the levels they take revenge to (which, are pretty extreme). But I think what the AV Club meant was that, after I Saw the Devil, there’s really nowhere else you can take genre. With all revenge flicks, the filmmakers usually flirt with the idea that revenge transforms the victim into a monster (which isn’t popular, I think, because it doesn’t give you a protagonist to root for), but this is a movie that plays that idea out.
(NSFW trailer, also, they show Achilles’s tendon cut)
The basic plot of the movie is: serial killer (Min-sik Choi, the old boy from the brilliant Oldboy) kills the wife of secret agent, secret agent sets out on personal vendetta, finds killer, beats him brutally into unconsciousness and implants a homing device into killer. Then he begins a campaign of catch-and-release methods of torture. Beat killer up (each encounter becomes increasingly horrifying) but then letting killer go so he can experience the psychological anguish of being haunted/hunted. As the revenge escalates, it’s pretty clear that perhaps secret agent is no better than the killer (they do paint this pretty blatantly in a conversation between the killer and his cannibal [!] friend). Twists ensue. It’s all very good and rendered with cringe-worthy violence.
I think it’s interesting that revenge-served-cold is a prevalent in Asian cinema (Park Chan-wook’s amazing Vengeance Trilogy), yet I can’t think of a good American movie that doesn’t glorify revenge. Can anyone help me out here?
But yeah, I Saw the Devil.