Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da [I Saw the Devil] (2010)

(On Cable TV, May 2013) I’m a jaded-but-reluctant viewer when it comes to movie violence, but when I say that I Saw the Devil made me feel a bit nauseous, it’s more a statement about the film’s conscious outrageousness than any squeamishness from my part.  Nominally the story of how a bereaved widower tracks down and tortures the serial killer responsible for the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, I Saw the Devil turns out to be a particularly gruesome thriller that seems to take delight in the worst possible perversions of the human mind.  It takes place in a universe where serial killers abound (poor guys; they can’t take a taxi without running into each other) and can take refuge at each other’s lairs.  It’s a film that half-heartedly tries to have its protagonist become as monstrous as the purely-evil antagonist, only to avoid making him face external consequences.  I Saw the Devil also feels profoundly misogynistic, with several female characters being graphically butchered along the way.  It is, in other words an almost-completely reprehensible film, barely saved by the impeccable quality of its production and its oft-astonishing direction.  As much as I dislike everything leading to and including the taxi cab scene, for instance, it’s shot in a way that I can only call magnificent.  I still can’t bring myself to recommend the film: it doesn’t have the maturity to say something about its own use of violence, and there’s the sense that a lot of big-budget resources have been invested in something that’s not much more respectable than a particularly gory Z-grade movie.  One thing is for sure: my PVR felt considerably cleaner once I had deleted I Saw the Devil from its hard drive.

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