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Korean movies are the fashion of the day – or of the decade, maybe even. With outstanding contributions in the traditional revenge and thriller genre (The Vengeance Trilogy), goofy horror shlockbuster like “The Host” or dense dramas such as Poetry, with the humour of “Mother”, Korea has established itself as a market to which a subscription is worthwhile.

One aspect of this is that new output seeks to take on the past success elements and heightens them. Violence and gore, human humiliation and peril have been elevated to levels other countries do not dare to produce as a mainstream element. Korean movies these days almost seems to creak under the expectation of goriness and physicality.

We are now in the generation of “I Saw the Devil”… it is a classic vengeance story, a man loses his beloved one, and goes on a rampage. He is not particular or subtle in his approach: There are suspects, and he treats them one after the other, with great indifference to their guilt or innocence. He finds the perpetrator, and he decides to extend his pains and sufferings as long as possible. That requires catching him, hurting him, setting him free, again and again. And it requires protecting him from the police, because nothing is as detrimental to an avenger than when his victim is safely locked up.

Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame is brilliant as pudgy psychopath with the looks of somebody who can blend completely into invisibility if needed. His counterpart Lee Byung-hyun, the supposedly good guy psychopath (not a iota better in his methods, the only difference between the two persons being that Choi Min-sik is not provided with a motive other than craziness for his deeds, and we are led to accept that if you do have a motive, you may torture and murder to your heart’s content).

The film is surprisingly boring – the repetitive nature of the cat and mouse game makes it unavoidable that you know what will happen, that at some point the mouse will find a way  out of its predicament and fight back. We see motives of “Seven” sneaking their way in, we see some Mission Impossible style stunts with cars, and we seen repeated versions of metal objects intruding human bodies.  It looks stylish (even though not as stylish as the Vengeance films do – director Kim Jee-woon neither has the stylistic nor the dramatic chops of Park Chan-Wook), but it is pointless. As the friends of the Filmspotting podcast put it: we learn nothing about the nature of evil, and then why should I watch it? It may lead to the conclusion that the violence is an end in itself in this film, and that would explain why it really does not affect the viewer.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/akmareul_boattda/

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