Kim Jee-woon is stuck. The emerging Korean auteur may have transcended the boundaries of his national cinema (his next film is supposedly an English-language thriller for Lions Gate), but for all the implacable velocity of his films, Kim remains stilted by his obsession with the peripheries of genre. I Saw the Devil—a warped serial-killer saga that sprints to its expected conclusion in under an hour and then spends ninety minutes bloodily pioneering the untenable darkness that lies beyond the margins of most thrillers—finds Kim so concerned with violating his film’s expected trajectory that everything else becomes subservient to his structural gamesmanship. Kim’s unyielding priorities ultimately render his characters disposable and didactic, their struggles and desires mitigated by those of their creator.
I Saw the Devil provides a brutal and rusted prism through which to consider Kim’s entire output thus far. Read all of David Ehrlich’s review of I Saw the Devil.