Friday, December 30, 2011


Directed by Jee-woon Kim

Byung-hun Lee - Kim Soo-hyeon
Min-sik Choi - Kyung-chul
Gook-hwan Jeon - Squad Chief Jang

     When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge.

     I love getting a chance to go back and catch up on movies I should have watched already. Right now I have a back catalog of at least 20 movies. So yes, that means I won't be able to get through all of them anytime soon but that doesn't mean I won't try to get through as many as possible. I will say that the ones that interest me the most will probably get watched first as usual. For those that send my links though, I will get to your films, I promise. With the holidays almost over I'm gearing for the reviews next year I'll be doing and wondering if I should do another Lovecraft month in August. What do you reader's think?

     There is no mistaking that this film is all Min-sik Choi through and through. Some of you may remember him from the movie Oldeuboi (Oldboy) where he plays the title character. Even though he takes a beating in that movie, to me it's nowhere near as brutal as what happens to him in this film. Yet what what sets him apart in this is what his character Kyung-chul endures and how he's always thinking of the next move to try and get ahead while systematically being taken apart. It's at the end of the film that shows how twisted his character is and what lengths he will go to to get even. But it's Choi's acting when he does realize he created the monster chasing him and his amusement and thrill he gets from it that shows the depths of the characters thanks to him.

     On the other side is Byung-hun Lee who plays Kim Soo-hyeon. Most know him as the one shining spot that was the shit pile of G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra as Stormshadow. In this film he has the chance to truly show what he is capable of as an actor and he comes through amazingly. At first when we see his character he seems like he has no emotions what so ever, yet it's only halfway through when he's listening in on a conversation between his prey and his acquaintance about how Soo-hyeon is more like them than he realizes that he decides to become what they're talking about. It's only after Soo-hyeon understands what he's become does he truly realize that he's no better than Kyung-chul and decides to enjoy it which is where it all comes apart for him. But it is at the end of the movie after he truly loses everything that Lee shines as an actor. It's when his character has to apologize to Kyung-chul for not taken him seriously enough and him understanding that Kyung-chul has truly won does the story amazingly sets in and the price everyone has paid is shown.

     The story for the film is interesting as after a while, the lines between the "good guy" and the "bad guy" becomes so blurred that you start to wonder what is really going on. While Lee's character is supposed to be the moral center of the story he slips into the roll of psychopath so easily at times you start to wonder if the Devil mentioned in the title of the movie is Kim Soo-hyeon instead of Kyung-chul due to Soo-hyeon takes more pleasure on the torture and mental abuse he inflicts on Kyung-chul after their first encounter in the green house. Then you realize that Kyung-chul is the true "Devil" at the end as he feels no remorse in his actions unlike Soo-hyeon who realizes to late that instead of attaining the justice he wants, instead he turned himself into a monster that equals Kyung-chul and hates himself for it. Only after he gets his revenge, after he lost everything, does he let himself become human again and the weight of what he's done destroys him as he walks away. You understand this fact earlier in the film when we're treated to a conversation between a cannibal and Kyung-chul's character that the cannibal is laughing that Soo-hyeon is one of them, a monster, and maybe worse, as they at least kill their prey after finding them and the fact that Kyung-chul created this monster.

      This movie was just what I needed to end the year on. It was brutal and tense through most of it and never apologized for it. The one thing I do wish they did more with was go more into Kyung-chul's background with his cannibal friend as it's mentioned that they tried to start a militant group that failed. It makes you wonder that if these two came from there who alse was in that group and just how more messed up they were. The cinematography was beautiful even when the violence on screen picked up, even during the whole Achilles tendon scene which was just outrageous. One of the stand out scenes is a knife fight that takes place in a moving cab between Kyung-chul's character and a pair of killers that stole a cab for fun. It gets bloody, as quick flashes of silver streaked in red fly through the air as the close quarters of the environment compacts the action and makes it more brutal. The sound design was on the spot throughout as well. From the quiet driving scenes when the film first started to the end conversation I mentioned earlier to the sounds of pain everything was bright but without being overly loud or blasting the eardrums out. If you haven't seen this film yet, you must as it's one of the best that came out this year. 

     A family reunion to lose your head over.

     Who broke your balls?

     The Korea Media Rating Board forced Kim to recut the film for its theatrical release, objecting to its violent content. Otherwise, the film would have gotten a "Restricted" rating, preventing any sort of release in theaters or on home video.

     The film marks Choi's first major role since his self-imposed exile over his protest of the Korean screen quota system. It also reunites Lee with Kim who have worked together in the past on films such as Dalkomhan insaeng.

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