28 February 2011

I Saw the Devil

Directed by: Kim Ji-woon
Written by: Park Hoon-jung
Full credits at IMDb

I Saw the Devil, a proudly in-poor-taste thriller about predators playing with their food, opens on a serial killer who's a methodical madman—not unlike, you might say, the filmmakers, who plot their first act with the propulsive precision of expert pulp novelists; think Jim Thompson, or even Cormac McCarthy. The movie's first forty minutes or so—in which special agent and widower Soo-hyeon (Lee Byung-hun) pursues his fiancĂ©e's killer while the butcher, Kyung-Chul (Oldboy's Choi Min-sik), stalks fresh prey—is refreshingly efficient: emotional, but never indulgent; psychological, but only broadly, like an issue of Detective Comics. Its focus never strays from The Hunts, its pared-down, parallel procedurals—psychokiller and vigilante, not so much mouse and cat as cat and, um, bigger cat.

When the two converge, the opening act comes to a breathless close and I Saw the Devil devolves into gimmick: bereaved defeats bereaver but, instead of killing him, lets him go and tracks him from a distance.

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