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Film / I Saw the Devil

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"I will kill you when you are in the most pain. When you're in the most pain and shivering out of fear, then I will kill you. That is a real revenge. A real, complete revenge."

I Saw the Devil is a 2010 Korean Revenge movie directed by Kim Ji-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, A Bittersweet Life). It stars Lee Byung-Hun as Kim Soo-Hyun, a government agent who swears to violently avenge the murder of his fiancée. Said crime was committed by Kyung-Chul Jang (Choi Min-Sik), a psychopath to whom kidnapping, raping and murdering young women come as easy as breathing. What ensues is a dangerous cat-and-mouse game in which both men vow to destroy one another's life.


This movie provides examples of the following:

  • Agony of the Feet: Kyung-Chul's both feet. One has its Achilles Tendon cut, another steps on a fishing hook
  • Anti-Hero: Soo-Hyun, who doesn't seem to care that his plan for revenge also puts innocent bystanders in danger. At one point he lets Kyung-Chul rape someone long enough just so he could disrupt his enjoyment that much further.
  • Asshole Victim: The two crooks in the taxi plan to rob and kill Kyung-Chul, who figures it out and kills them both.
  • Attempted Rape
  • Ax-Crazy: Kyung-Chul reveals himself to be a danger to just about everyone around him. Even after getting his hand mended by a doctor, he nearly decides to murder the doctor over some gentle scolding. The only reason he relents is because he turns his attention on the doctor's attractive nurse. All of this is part of what makes Soo-Hyun's catch-and-release plan so reckless.
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  • Big Bad: Kyung-Chul Jang is the psychopath who murdered the fiancé of protagonist Kim Soo-Hyun, a government agent who seeks revenge on him for it.
  • Black Comedy:
    • While preparing to murder a woman he's given a ride, Kyung-Chul misplaces his murder weapon. He rummages around behind his seat muttering to himself while his future victim watches him in confusion.
    • When Tae-joo tries to remove the screwdriver pinning his hand on the table. The handle promptly comes off with a humorous "pop!" He slams the table in frustration.
  • Bottomless Magazines: A mild case when Kyung-Chul shoots three times with a double barrel shotgun before reloading.
  • Bowdlerized: The Korean version was effectively censored by the Korea Media Rating Board; several shots of violence and some scenes depicting cannibalism had to be removed before being released. The international version is uncut and true to the director's intentions, however.
  • Cowboy Cop: Soo-Hyun.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Kyung-Chul is very skillfully beaten whenever he engages Soo-Hyun in hand-to-hand combat. Justified in that Soo-Hyun is a trained government operative.
  • Determinator: Soo-hyun, but not as much as Kyung-Chul. To elaborate, Kyung-Chul gets into a car accident (after murdering the two people inside the car with him) and breaks his arm. Later he has the Achilles tendon in one of his feet cut. Not long after his head is bashed in with a pipe. Through all of this, he is still somehow able to inflict brutal murder when in any normal situation, he could have been defeated by being shoved to the ground and kicked.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: How Soo-hyun sees Kyung-Chul. The title, which explains it all, is considered an ironic coincidence.
  • Disposable Woman: Joo-Yun, whose death kicks off the plot.
  • Downer Ending: Soo-Hyun manages to kill Kyung-Chul, but by this point, it's clear he's lost everything. His career as a police officer is in jeopardy because of the sheer amount of damage he's caused in his pursuit of vengeance, his father-in-law ends up grievously injured, his sister-in-law ends up dead, and in having Kyung-Chul decapitated right in front of the guy's parents and son, he realizes that he has become just as monstrous as Kyung-Chul had been. By the end of the movie, he's walking away from all the carnage he's caused, alternating between crying and laughing, completely alone.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Tae-joo the cannibal has a girlfriend, though their relationship isn't explored. It's not even clear if she's a cannibal as well, since she scowls at him when he's eating human flesh and is only seen eating rice herself.
  • Evil vs. Evil: By the end of the film, Soo-Hyun's desire for revenge has made him just as monstrous as Kyung-Chul.
  • From Bad to Worse
  • Glasgow Grin: Soo-Hyun gives this to one of the cannibals by ripping open his mouth with his bare hands. We only see it briefly.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Smoking is treated as bad and villainous. Squad Chief Jang smokes while in mourning for his daughter. Soo-Hyun gently tells him he should stop. Kyung-Chul the serial killer is constantly seen smoking. In the end, Soo-Hyun smokes a cigarette and uses it to burn Kyung-Chul.
  • Gorn: Oh boy.
  • Groin Attack: Soo-Hyun attacks his first suspect by smashing his groin with a hammer.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Explored and discussed.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Kyung-Chul often calls everyone crazy and/or psycho.
  • Idiot Ball: The Police has it bad. They have called Kyung-Chul in before, and know where he lives. So When Kyung-Chul left all his evidence at the crime scene at the start of the movie, why didn't they get him then?
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Tae-joo is a cannibal, declaring that you'll never want to eat anything else after you taste human meat. He noisily scarfs down bite after bite during dinner with Kyung-Chul.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Soo-Hyun uses this on some suspects early on when he's looking for the killer.
  • Jerkass: Aside from the whole Serial Killer business, Kyung-chul treats every last person he comes across with violence, hostility and contempt - and that's when he doesn't end up killing them.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: Kyung-Chul is ultimately murdered in revenge for Soo-Hyun's fiancee.
  • Manly Tears: At the end, Soo-Hyun breaks down crying after finally killing Kyung-Chul.
  • Mugging the Monster: The two crooks in the taxi plan to rob and kill Kyung-Chul, not knowing he is a murderous psychopath.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The most likely reasoning behind Soo-Hyun's breakdown at the end of the film, in combination with his loss and all the lives he indirectly ended or changed forever.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Soo-Hyun's constant catch-and-release torment of Kyung-Chul gives the latter time to find out Soo-Hyun's identity. Kyung-Chul then tracks down and murders Joo-Yun's father and sister. Had Soo-Hyun finished his revenge earlier, his fiancee's family wouldn't have been killed.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: A scene only available in the Korean version of the film (the director cut it out of the international version for pacing reasons) has Kyung-Chul raping his cannibal friend's wife only her for to enjoy it after a while.
  • Overt Operative: Soo-Hyun
  • Parental Abandonment: Kyung-Chul has a son whom he left with his parents.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Soo-Hyun's vow.
    I'll promise this. I'll give him pain that's 1,000 times... no, 10,000 times more painful.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Soo-Hyun begins the film as a sympathetic antihero motivated by getting vengeance on a brutal murderer. He makes more and more moral concessions to his vengeance, until, by the end, he's completely sacrificed his humanity.
  • Revenge: Soo-Hyun and his would-be father-in-law are motivated by vengeance against the murder of Joo-Yun.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Soo-Hyun strives for revenge over all other factors, even after being begged to stop by his fiance's family, and even though it puts a number of other people in peril.
  • Rule of Drama: There's no given reason why Kyung-Chul's sedatives wear off nearly a day earlier than expected, just in time to make a critical discovery. It happens simply to drive the next plot point.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Joo-Yun, whose death at the hands of Kyung-Chul kicks off the plot.
  • Serial Killer: Kyung-Chul has killed around a dozen women, as evidenced by the items in his lair.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Soo-Hyun.
  • Shout-Out: Kyung-Chul ends up in a situation straight from Bloodsucking Freaks: in a guillotine, holding the blade up with his teeth.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Kyung-Chul. Even though he's a sleazy serial killer whose only known "friend" is a psychotic cannibal, he thinks very highly of himself. And doesn't change his tune until the moment he is brutally killed.
  • Soft Glass: Soo-Hyun knows that this is not true. The only time he jumps through a window, he wears gloves and a rather thick hoodie, and also grabs a sheet of cloth for extra protection.
  • Stupid Crooks: The killers in the film are hardly masterminds.
    • Kyung-Chul misplaces objects a few times, coming across as fairly bumbling on occasion.
    • Tae-joo knows that a merciless Serial-Killer Killer is hunting his house guest, but takes no precautions. When his CD player spontaneously shuts off, he doesn't display any awareness that there might be someone skulking about. He even fumbles with the controls trying to turn it back on.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A woman standing at a deserted bus stop at night lets herself get convinced to accept a ride from a very insistent stranger in a van.
  • Tranquil Fury: Soo-Hyun maintains this state throughout the movie.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Soo-Hyun eventually discovers what a bad idea it is to keep a deranged psychopath alive to toy with.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Near the end of the movie Soo-Hyun succeeds in getting Kyung-Chul to beg for his life like so many of his own victims. Subverted in that it was an act on Kyung-Chul's part.
    • Then played straight when Soo-hyun leaves and Kyug-Chul's parents and son come to visit him. Kyung-Chul really starts to panic as they're about to see him in the state Soo-hyon left him in, holding a rope with his teeth that, if released, would let the guillotine down.
  • Villains Out Shopping: An early sequence has Kyung-Chul engaged in mundane activities such as preening his hair and playing acoustic guitar.
  • Wicked Cultured: The Cannibal Tae-joo enjoys listening to classical music while preparing his "meals".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the schoolgirl and the kidnapped victim in the cannibal's house? We both see them scurry away as Soo-Hyun battles Kyung-Chul, but there's no follow up.


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