popcorninhell’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I Saw the Devil" has got to be one of the most violent, grotesque and masochistic films I have seen in a while. The film is less an experience than it is an endurance exercise for your stomach. Supposedly the point of the film is: revenge is destructive and inherently evil yet it takes great relish in exposing every gory detail of its outlandish story.
The story begins with a young woman waiting on the side of a snowy road for a tow-truck. As she calls her secret agent fiancée Soo-Hyun (Lee Byung-Hun), a mysterious man offers help. What occurs next is an episode of violent assault and brutal murder that never skims on the gory details. After her body, or rather body parts are recovered, Soo-Hyun takes a few weeks out to track down the supposedly elusive killer. Once he catches up to him however, instead of informing the authorities or killing him, he puts a ludicrous master plan in motion that can be best described as a farcical indictment of "catch and release."
The stunning amount of violence and gore especially towards women is repulsive. Instead of letting the audience use its imagination or letting the cameraman use discretion, jugular spurting, tendon slicing and mounds of mutilated body parts are on full display. The victims of such bloodletting are treated so harshly and diminutively that even the survivors are disrespected and discarded like rag-dolls. At one point Soo-Hyun, after beating serial killer Kyung-Chul into submission, tells one of his victims, a nurse "don't leave you'll need to heal his wounds." Excuse me?! I doubt a rape victim would be much inclined to cauterize the wounds of her rapist then leave him in the middle of nowhere to strike again.
Soo-Hyun is so focused on his plan for revenge that he ends up paying a terrible price thus the moral of director Jee-Woon Kim's story; revenge is bad. But how strong is that moral when those interested in watching want to for prurient amusement? When I watched "I Saw the Devil" I did so with a friend. He had a much different reaction. While I was disgusted with the film, he thought the bashing of a victims skull with a pipe was worth a clever comment and breaking a man's jawbone was oddly hilarious. As the credits rolled he claimed I just didn't "get it." A statement that I find oddly hilarious.