Ryan Saylor’s review published on Letterboxd:
"So you've created a monster. How interesting."
What does it really mean for you to get revenge? An eye for an eye, perhaps. But then what if the eye they took was more valuable? Do you take two eyes? Three? Where do you stop and when are you satisfied? What if every retaliatory pain you inflict feels justified? What if you're never sated? And what if you have the means to really, truly inflict the pain you think they've earned?
I Saw the Devil is a messed up film. It is long and often hard to watch. It garnered vocal response from me multiple times as I was consistently surprised by the horrors the film would come up with and the way said horrors were shown. This is a grueling experience and, to be honest, one that some people will see absolutely no value in.
At its core this is a simple revenge story, just more cruel and disturbing. I guarantee some will be left wanting as all they see is a by the books story with hyperviolence sewn in. But the way the film ebbs and flows, the way the power dynamics shift constantly, the way every scene engaged me by clever use intrigue and subplots - it all made for a very interesting film and one I'd easily recommend.
It helps that this is so insanely well made. The camera is attentive and interested in seeing all that is happening. But it's also reactionary and moves and cuts based on how things feel. The two leads are incredible. I knew Choi Min-Sik from Oldboy but Lee Byung-Hun was new to me. They matched each other's energy and made each other better throughout. I can't imagine either of their performances without the pressure of the other.
Anyway, I loved this. If you're down for more revenge cinema from South Korea, please check this out. It's simple and engaging and yet enough depth to really garner reflection afterwards. For if the titular "Devil" is the monsters or their actions then the titular "I" must be the audience. And when one sees the devil they could become, what else can one do but repent?