I Saw the Devil

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I Saw the Devil                                           I Saw the Devil Film Poster

Hangul: 악마를 보았다

Romanisation: Akmareul Boattda

Release Date: August 11th 2010 (South Korea)

Running Time: 141 mins.

Director: Kim Jee-Woon

Writer: Park Hoon-Jung

Starring: Lee Byung-Hun, Choi Min-Sik, Jeon Kuk-Hwan, On San-Ha, Kim Yun-Seo, Cheon Ho-Jin, Choi Moo-Sung. Kim In-Seo, Jo Duk-Je,

I Saw the Devil came out in the same year as The Man from Nowhere. Both feature protagonists with special-forces backgrounds clashing with evil criminals, killing many people in quests for revenge. Imagine James Bond (the Daniel Craig version) chasing Hannibal Lecter. So, hardly an original idea but then the director has a knack for bringing a refreshing spin on things. Here he bolts on a twisted revenge narrative powered by two great physical performances.

It is a dark snow-choked night and a woman named Ju-Yeon (Oh San-Ha) is stuck in her car has which has broken down on a lonely road just outside Seoul. She is talking to her fiancée Soo-Hyun (Lee Byung-Hun) on her mobile phone. He is an agent for the National Intelligence Agency and is working but wants to stay on the phone until a tow-truck appears. Their conversation is interrupted when a stranger named Kyung-Chul (Choi Min-Sik) pulls up in his yellow van and offers to help but Ju-Yeon is wary and Soo-Hyun advises her to stay in the car. Ju-Yeon tells Kyung-Chul she will wait for the tow-truck. He reluctantly disappears. Before he attacks Ju-Yeon. A few days later Ju-Yeon’s mutilated body is found in a river. Soo-Hyun is devastated and feels guilty. At the funeral Soo-Hyun says, “Forgive me Ju-Yeon. I promise you this, I will make him pay.” This sparks in motion a brutal game of revenge as Soo-Hyun stalks Kyung-Chul but things soon spiral out of control. 

Kim Jee-Woon brings his genre tweaking skills and high gloss attitude to everything he films. Here he turns the serial killer genre on its head by questioning notions of revenge and the psychological toll taken on those who are both pursued and pursuer. Like the best serial killer films, it feels less like an elaborate game (The Silence of the Lambs) and more like a questioning of how deep emotions and environmental factors affect us (Cure: The Power of Suggestion, Angel Dust). How casual misogyny, economic disenfranchisement and the heavy atmosphere of violence warps people.

I Saw the Devil becomes disturbing and exciting because of the emotions involved and the evolving characters. Watching the merciless and brutal game of catch and release becomes gruelling as the hatred and pain both men feel and inflict dehumanises them and questions the audience’s love of such movie narratives.

I Saw the Devil Soo-Hyun (Lee Byung-Hun) Monitors His Prey

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The Quiet Family

Shh! The Quiet Family

The Quiet Family was the directorial debut of Kim Jee-woon who now has an impressive back-catalogue of films including A Bittersweet Life, and A Tale of Two Sisters. This would be the first DVD I would import from South Korea. It was back in the early 2000’s and I was in high school. I have no idea why I was attracted to this film but I’m grateful I bought it because it allowed me to see that South Korea is a region brimming with brilliant ideas and talent and just as the Korean wave was really gaining momentum. I also got two pretty cool postcards with the DVD but that’s neither here nor there…

When Kang Tae-Gu (Park In-hwan) loses his job in Seoul the Kang family move to an old mountain cottage and convert it into an inn despite knowing nothing about the lodging business. With the entire family pitching in to help including mother (Na Moon-hee), delinquent son Yeong-min (Song Kang-ho), two daughters Mi-su (Lee Yoon-sung) and Mi-Na (Ko Ho-kyeong) and uncle Chang-ku (Choi Min-sik) there is a lot of anticipation for their first guest. It takes some time but eventually a strange man arrives and asks for a room. The next morning that man is found dead having committed suicide. The family panic at first but the father insists that they hide the corpse to prevent a bad reputation building. Unfortunately this is just the first incident which will leave many corpses who strewn around the inn.

A Corpse in The Quiet Family

This is a black comedy of the finest calibre. Everything from acting to direction is carefully moderated with nothing wasted.

One can detect an exacting sense of control on the part of Kim Jee-woon in every camera movement and scene set-up. The initial roving camera maps out the inn during the opening credit sequence then observes the hilarity that ensues when characters blunder around the location. It is this control that would later surface in the even more impressive film A Tale of Two Sisters.

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Howling, Nameless Gangster, Love Fiction, New Korean Film Trailers

There are three South Korean movies getting a domestic release in February that I like the look of and they look very special indeed. Here they are thanks to Mayries and his/her YouTube channel.

Howling

Release Date: 9th February 2012 (South Korea)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Yu Ha

Writer: Asa Nonami (novel)

Starring: Song Kang-Ho, Lee Na-Young

This film is based on a Japanese novel named Kogoeru Kiba (The Hunter) by Asa Nonami and the last time Korea adapted a Japanese property was Old Boy which was just incredible. The trailer is very atmospheric and I for one am looking forward to Howling.

A veteran detective named Sang Gil (Song Kang-Ho) is teamed up with a rookie named Eun Young (Lee Na-Young) to investigate a mysterious case of spontaneous combustion in the back of a van. The strange thing is that the bones have animal bite marks. The two aren’t the best of partners for such an assignment considering he is a misogynist and she has her own personal problems but when another case emerges with similar details they are soon on the hunt.  

Howling stars the brilliant Song Kang-Ho who has been in many landmark Korean new wave films like Memories of Murder, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Host and Thirst.

Nameless Gangster

Release Date: 2nd February 2012 (South Korea)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Yun Jong-Bin

Writer: Yun Jong-Bin

Starring: Choi Min-Sik, Ha Jung-Woo, Jo Jin-Ung, Kim Hye-Eun

Here’s another movie starring a vet from the Korean new wave. Choi Min-Sik (Old Boy, The Quiet Family, Crying Fist) looks like he’s having fun in this film so hopefully this translates into the audience getting some laughs.

Busan, South Korea. It is the 1990’s and the government has launched a war on organised crime and corruption. Choi Min-Sik is a customs officer used to dealing with the Korean mafia and decides he better quit the game and save his reputation before it is too late.

I developed a taste for South Korean comedies after watching The Quiet Family and My Boss, My Hero back in 2001/2 so I’m hoping this will be just as funny.

Love Fiction

Release Date: 29th February 2012 (South Korea)

Running Time: N/A

Director: Jeon Kye-Su

Writer: N/A

Starring: Ha Jung-Woo, Kong Hyo-Jin

And then we come to our third film released in February which is a rom-com.

 

Ku Joo-Wol (Ha Jung-Woo) is a timid writer who had a successful debut but is now in the middle of a slump. Then he meets the girl of his dreams in Hee-Jin (Kong Hyo-Jin) who works for a movie distribution company but she has mother issues. Will Ku Joo-Wol overcome both of their problems… and so on…