starring Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Jeon Gook-hwan, Jeon Ho-jin
screenplay by Park Hoon-jung
directed by Kim Ji-woon
by Alex Jackson The rape scenes in Kim Ji-woon's I Saw the Devil are the most blatantly eroticized and sadistic I've seen since Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days, but they're countered by the hilariously gory revenge scenes against the rapist (Choi Min-sik) by his victim's boyfriend (Lee Byung-hun). The film isn't trying to rationalize the rape with the revenge or the revenge with the rape. Rather, it regards women and the men who rape them as equally undeserving of our sympathy. One is tortured for thrills, the other tortured for laughs. There doesn't appear to be any kind of coherent moral perspective here, it's just Kim pushing our buttons and taking whatever strong reaction he can get. What makes I Saw the Devil so very good is that he pushes them exceptionally well. I kind of agree with Bret Easton Ellis, who said, "If you come at movies with your own sense of morality and not your own sense of aesthetics, I think you're screwed. I think that's not a way to look at movies." I suppose you could dismiss I Saw the Devil as superficial or even immoral, but that seems to minimize how viscerally stimulating it all is. There's the shocking first attack, a tour-de-force multiple stabbing in a taxicab, witty homages to Blue Velvet, Kill Bill, Vol. 1, and Se7en, and the strangely poignant image of the rapist-killer playing guitar over the body of his latest conquest. If the film has anything substantive to say about vengeance, it might actually be saying it through its length. After two-and-a-half hours of revenge and counter-revenge, we're just plain exhausted. More than the idea that the boyfriend has essentially changed roles with his girlfriend's rapist, or that he's doing this more for himself than for her, what ultimately comes across is that neither the rapist nor the boyfriend will ever stop on his own accord. It's perfectly noble to ensure that evildoing is ultimately punished, but you reach a point where you simply have to let it go and get on with your life.