This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Robert Berlin’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Revenge stories must be as old as storytelling and fiction itself, surely even the most primitive of human societies must have had stories about how some asshole ruined your day and how you made them pay for it. However, I often find myself dissapointed with how glorified the revenge plots seem to be, even the most sadistic murders can be forgiven if it is done for revenge it seems. I can tell you however that I Saw The Devil does a damn good job of NOT glorifying revenge, in fact it really shows you how easily it can spiral out of control if you let it consume you.
So the story is pretty basic as far as revenge stories go. The film starts with the wife of our main protagonist being viciously murdered by a ruthless killer. Mr. Protagonist is obviously pissed and swears that he will make the murderer suffer for this, and it is so that a dark series of events unfold that not only blurs, but absolutely shatters the line between heroic act of revenge and sociopathic torture, there was a very clear point where I noticed how utterly demented the protagonist had become, any shreds of heroism washed away in an instance.
The violent path of revenge is littered by gruesome gore, masterfully put together with excellent special effects. There's some great camera work in there as well, especially in a scene featuring a taxi and a violent stabbing, a fantastic scene. Another noteworthy scene is the one where a searching party stumbles upon a human head and immediately end up being swarmed by what seems like an endless horde of photographers and reporters, a very unsettling scene that shows the sensationalism of death and the desperate hunger for eye-catching news stories.
The path of revenge is long and painful and it ends in possibly the worst way. The family of the murderer that has been chased throughout the film are unknowingly executing him by triggering an elaborate trap and the demented "hero" breaks down in tears as he realizes that nothing has changed, his wife is still dead and now another family had to experience the terrible feeling of losing someone close to them. A powerful ending that finishes a vicious cycle of greed and obsession.