Opening today at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff for a one-week run, ‘I Saw the Devil’ is a black-hearted revenge film from South Korea that has received generally positive marks since its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. Shortly thereafter, it played at Fantastic Fest, which is where I sat down to watch it on a Saturday morning.
My opinion is decidedly in the minority. Perhaps my expectations were different. Directed by Kim Ji-Woon, who in previous films such as ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ and ‘The Good the Bad and the Weird’ demonstrated an affection for opulently entertaining excess, ‘I Saw the Devil’ takes it simple premise and hammers it into submission.
Let me quote from Kurt Halfyard’s review at Twitch:
Kim’s films, I Saw The Devil included, remain fun and exciting affairs, but do not engage the brain or the soul much beyond the basic concept. Case in point the film never really develops beyond Lee’s becoming the devil to defeat the devil and all the collateral damage done (family, innocent bystanders, you name it) in that single-minded quest. Is doing all this evil enough to be justified by a promise and love? It is a not a difficult question to answer after the film is over. The uncut version showed at the Toronto International Film Festival and it is about as bloody and gory (and oddly enough, glossy) a serial killer movie that I can recall. I’m sure someone will make a bloodier and gorier movie, that is the way these things work, but that does not change the fact that this is probably the current benchmark, Korean cinema or otherwise.
It’s tremendously well-made, and as long as you have the stomach for it, it’s something you’ll probably want to catch on the big screen. But I’m afraid it was a let down for me, more a technical exercise than anything else.
The big show got started last night. The Dallas International Film Festival (Dallas IFF) kicked off with the local premiere of Sundance / SXSW documentary fave ‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey’ at the Winspear Opera House. Yours truly decided to skip the red carpet and avoid the crowds, but I’ll be covering it as much as possible.
Coming on the heels of SXSW, Dallas IFF is decidedly a more low-key affair, but that keeps the emphasis squarely on the films, which is always a good thing. I’ll be covering a few films for my friends at Red Carpet Crash, who will feature complete coverage of the fest, and will be backing up my friend Josh Hurtado as he covers the festival for Twitch.
And I might have a thing or two to say about it on my Twitter feed, so you can follow me @PeterAMartin for all the latest grunts and grumbles. After the festival, I’m anticipating some changes to Dallas Film Now (and its Twitter feed, @DallasFilmNow) as well.