Lee Byung-hun keeps his eye on the Devil.
I SAW THE DEVIL (Kim Ji-woon). 138 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 18). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Kim Ji-woon makes some weird-ass movies, and he never makes the same one twice. His filmography includes the unsettling familial horror of A Tale Of Two Sisters and the manic Manchurian actioner The Good, The Bad, The Weird, and now he's embraced the gore-soaked serial-killer genre.
I Saw The Devil pits Korean secret-service agent Soo-hyeon (Lee Byung-hun) against Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik), the dull-eyed monster who butchered Soo-hyeon's fiancée. This is calculating, precise revenge; our hero corrals Kyung-chul, equips him with a GPS tracker and proceeds to shadow him through suburban Seoul in an infernal game of catch, mutilate and release.
The first two-thirds of the movie play as jet-black comedy, as if David Fincher had dedicated himself to remaking that great Warner Bros. cartoon about the sheepdog and the coyote. ("Morning, Sam." "Morning, Ralph." "Time to bleed.")
But it turns out both sadism and close-ups of spurting head wounds are subject to the law of diminishing returns, especially when the only message behind them is that old saw about how fighting monsters can turn a hero into a monster himself - particularly when he resorts to using an actual saw.