Invincible Asia’s review published on Letterboxd:
A piano sonata of revenge that, with each note, breaks a bone, peels back your skin, slits a tendon and punches and kicks your heart and gut and stops exactly a split second before it would knock you unconscious, only to build up again and leave you more devastated the next time around.
I Saw The Devil is a gorgeously crafted piece of cinema directed by Kim Jee-woon. The tale of a special ops agent played by Lee Byung-hun on the hunt for the murderer of his wife portrayed by Choi Min-Sik is filmmaking at its very best.
The cinematography with its constant tracking shots is out of this world amazing and makes the dirty, grim sets designed with a distinct and disgusting colour palette look far more beautiful than they have any right to be.
And there’s MOWG’s splendid score that brings in the well-known baroque influences, tones them down a bit and even adds melancholic bossa nova vibes to create a world of tragic yet delightful darkness.
But for all its gorgeous craftsmanship, all the amazing cinema expertise on display, the story is by far the most straight-forward in all of South Korean revenge cinema. Maximise vengeance. No matter the cost. Maximise vengeance. Without knowing whether there can be any redemption after it. Just maximise vengeance.
Lee Byung-hun’s portrayal of Soo-hyun is a calm and determined one. He rationalises his revenge like he does his work and it’s down to very subtle nuances and facial expressions to convey his grief.
Choi Min-Sik on the other hand delivers an intense, feral and raw take on a serial killer. Kyung-chul is no smart, evil genius but an ordinary guy driven by disgusting instincts and sick desires.
I Saw The Devil boasts an impressive combination of acting, cinematography and sound to create one giant downward spiral of human cruelty and relentless violence. There is no redemption, no salvation, no love, no one to rescue and no glory to achieve. Everything’s going to shit. Everyone’s getting their head beaten in. Everyone’s getting their jaws ripped apart.
And it’s one superbly directed, stunningly shot and amazingly acted ride that only gets more tense and gut-wrenching as it keeps falling faster and faster down the abyss.