Monday, May 30, 2011

DVD Review: I Saw the Devil (2010)

Label: Magnet Releasing
Region: Region 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 142 mins
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen 16x9
Audio: English and Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital with optional English subtitles
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Cast: Lee Byung-Hun, Choi Min-Sik,
Tagline: Evil Lives Inside

Film: Kim Jee-woon's I Saw the Devil begins with a  pretty young woman named Joo-yeon (San-ha Oh) pulling off a countryside road with a flat tire. She calls for a tow truck and passes the time  speaking with her fiance Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee Byung-hun, The Good, The Bad, The Weird) who is an Elite Special Agent which I assume is equivalent to the FBI. A man named Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik, Oldboy) arrives on scene in a van and asks if she would like assistance with the tire which she politely declines. Once she ends her conversation with her fiance she notices the man's vehicle still has still not left the area. Turning on her car's headlights she is startled to discover the man is standing outside her car with a pipe in hand. He smashes his way into the vehicle, beats her unconscious and drags her bleeding body through the snow to his van. She awakens in his lair wrapped in plastic, weak and terrified. She pleads for her life and that of her unborn child. It is in van though as he cuts her into pieces and days later her remains are discovered by a group of children at play in a field.

Not content to let the authorities handle the investigation Kim Soo-hyeon seeks his own vengeance with the aide of her father, a retired police chief. With the identities of four suspects in hand Kim Soo-hyeon begins a revenge spree that threatens to not only destroy the psychopath but consume himself as well. His bloody quest puts him on the trail of Kyung-chul whom as portrayed by Oldboy's Choi Min-sik is as vile a killer as the silver screen has ever seen. During their first encounter Kim Soo-hyeon gets the better of Kyung-chul but instead of killing him opts to play a twisted game of cat and mouse which not only puts others in harm's way but threatens to turn Kim Soo-hyeon into a monster as well. It's a startling look at the lengths a good man will goes to revenge the death of a loved one. It's not a new concept but it's one of the best and most violent revenge-thrillers since Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy. The acting is solid throughout from everyone but it's the lead performances from Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik that are gonna be burned into your mind for quite a while.

This South Korean revenge-thriller from director Kim Jee-woon  is truly one of the most unrelenting films I've ever seen. Even at well over two hours in length there's enough tension and gut-wrenching intensity to keep you slack jawed and in awe right up until the film's unhinged finale. Seriously, every 10 minutes of this film plunges you deeper into a nightmare of revenge and operatic violence that never lets up and only get more fucked-up by the minute.

DVD: The film comes to DVD in it's 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 original aspect ratio and looks stunning with strong colors and deep blacks. This director's films are always sumptuous visual delights with fantastic cinematography and this is no different, very stylish and gorgeously shot. For the purpose of this review I only listened to the Korean 5.1 (with optional English subtitles) and it was robust a  listen that gave the surrounds quite a workout. I should give a shout out to the film score's composer Mowg who provided an outstanding score that sounded super-sweet in 5.1. Supplemental materials include 24 minutes of deleted scenes which aren't throwaway either, there's some meaty stuff here including a prologue and an epilogue not in the film, a super-sleazy sex scene totally cut from the film all together and a lot of stuff that was just re-edited and cut to tighten the film up but all of it is worth a look. The other feature is 'Raw and Rough: Behind the Scenes of I Saw the Devil' in which we get a breakdown of the film's many action and stunt sequences.

Special Features:
- Deleted Scenes (24:11) Letterboxed
- Raw and Rough: Behind the Scenes of I Saw the Devil (24:05) 1.33:1

Verdict: Kim Jee-woon is hands down one of the most exciting filmmakers in the cinema right now. This is a thriller that if you can stomach it's ugliness is a stunner on the level of The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. I cannot recall a film that put me through the wringer the way I Saw the Devil did, a tour de force of violent cinema. Definitely the best of 2011 so far. 4.75 outta 5