I Saw the Devil

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I Saw the Devil
Korean theatrical poster
Hanja 를 보았다
Revised Romanization Angmareul boatda
McCune–Reischauer Angmarŭl poatta
Directed by Kim Ji-woon
Produced by Kim Hyung-woo
Jo Sung-won
Kim Jae-young
Kim Jung-hwa
Written by Park Hoon-jung
Starring Choi Min-sik
Lee Byung-hun
Music by Mowg
Cinematography Lee Mo-gae
Edited by Nam Na-yeong
Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex
Release dates
  • 12 August 2010 (2010-08-12)
Running time
144 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget US$6 million[1]
Box office US$12,773,990[2]

I Saw the Devil (Hangul: 악마를 보았다; RR: Angmareul boatda) is a 2010 South Korean psychological thriller/horror film directed by Kim Ji-woon, written by Park Hoon-jung, and starring Choi Min-sik and Lee Byung-hun.

The film introduces the character of NIS agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), who embarks on a quest of revenge when his fiancée is brutally murdered by a psychopathic murderer, Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik). The line between good and evil begin to blur when the two play a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

I Saw the Devil made its premiere in the United States at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and had a limited U.S theatrical release.[3][4] The film was Choi Min-sik's first major role since the changes to the Korean screen quota system.[5] It has received generally positive reviews.


When Joo-yun gets a flat tire one snowy night, Kyung-chul drives up in a yellow school bus, offering to help fix her tire. Kyung-chul kills her and scatters her body parts. A boy discovers one of Joo-yun's ears, and police are called to find the rest of the body, under the command of Section Chief Oh and Squad Chief Jang, who is the father of Joo-yun. Joo-yun's fiancé, Soo-hyun, a secret service agent of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), becomes determined to track down and take vengeance on Joo-yun's murderer.

Jang supplies Soo-hyun with a list of four suspects, including Kyung-chul. Searching Kyung-chul's home, Soo-hyun finds jewelry and underwear that Kyung-chul has taken from (apparently) numerous victims. When he finds Joo-yun's engagement ring he knows that Kyung-chul is the killer. Soo-hyun puts a tracking device on the school bus, tracking then attacking Kyung-chul while he is sexually assaulting his latest victim—one of the schoolgirls he was transporting home. Rendering him unconscious, he places an NIS transmitter inside Kyung-chul, so he can better track his location and listen to his conversations. Waking up, Kyung-chul flags down a taxi. During the ride, Kyung-chul realizes that the two men in the cab are thugs looking to rob and possibly kill their victim. Kyung-chul stabs both men to death before they can attempt to draw their knife on him. After finding the real taxi driver in the trunk, Kyung-chul disposes of all three bodies before going to a medical centre, where he sexually assaults a nurse, only to be again attacked by Soo-hyun.

Kyung-chul goes to the home of his friend Tae-joo, a cannibalistic murderer with a freezer full of bodies. After explaining his situation, Tae-joo remarks that whoever is after him must have some relation to one of his victims. Soo-hyun arrives at the house, where he proceeds to incapacitate both murderers and Tae-joo's girlfriend Se-jung. The next day, both Tae-joo and Se-jung are found by the police and sent to a hospital. Meanwhile, a trusted subordinate of Soo-hyun's ensures he and Kyung-chul are sent to a private medical area away from the police. The barely conscious Kyung-chul hears them talk about the transmitter inside him.

Soo-hyun dumps Kyung-chul, intending to continue tracking and attacking him. Kyung-chul taunts him over the transmitter, now knowing who he is and how he is being tracked. To make Soo-hyun lose track of him, Kyung-chul brutally assaults a store owner, directing Soo-hyun to rush to the aid of the victim before he dies. Kyung-chul uses this time to defecate out the transmitter and place it inside a taxi driver he viciously assaults. Soo-hyun interrogates Tae-joo and learns that Kyung-chul is going after Joo-yun's father Jang and sister Se-yun (Kim Yun-seo).

Soo-hyun arrives too late to stop Kyung-chul, who blinds Jang with a dumbbell and mutilates Se-yun. He abducts Kyung-chul before he can turn himself over to the police. Soo-hyun tortures him physically and mentally before setting up a guillotine above Kyung-chul's head that is soon after activated when his parents and son arrive to visit and open the door to the room he is in. Placing a transmitter nearby, Soo-hyun's hears the death of Kyung-chul and his family's reaction to his decapitated corpse. Walking away from the house, Soo-hyun suffers a mental breakdown, seemingly alternating between sobbing and fits of laughter.


  • Choi Min-sik as Kyung-chul, a school bus driver and serial killer
  • Lee Byung-hun as Soo-hyun, an agent in the National Intelligence Service[6]
  • Jeon Kuk-hwan as Squad Chief Jang, Joo-yun's father
  • Chun Ho-jin as Section Chief Oh, the leader of the police
  • Oh San-ha as Joo-yun, Soo-hyun's fiance
  • Kim Yun-seo as Se-yun, Joo-yun's sister
  • Choi Moo-sung as Tae-joo, Kyung-chul's friend
  • Kim In-seo as Se-jung, Tae-joo's girlfriend

Alternate versions[edit]

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 received a "Restricted" rating, preventing any sort of release in theatres or on home video.[7] Seven cuts were made with the total runtime of removed material between eighty and ninety seconds.[8]


I Saw the Devil was released in South Korea on August 12, 2010. The film premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival on 21 January 2011.[3] It also received screenings at several other international film festivals, including the Fantasporto Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival and the London Korean Film Festival.[9]

American distribution rights were acquired by Magnet Releasing which released it in theatres on a limited basis on March 4, 2011.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

I Saw the Devil received generally positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 80% approval rating from critics based on 80 reviews, with an average score of 7.1/10.[10] Metacritic assigned the film a score of 67%, based on a weighted average of 19 reviews from mainstream critics.[11]

Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times wrote "From an unexpectedly moving first act to a hilariously disgusting sojourn with Kyung-chul’s cannibal pal, Mr. Kim and his cinematographer, Lee Mogae, retain complete control of the film’s fluctuating tones and impressive set pieces."[12]

Mark Olson of the Los Angeles Times wrote "There is all the violent mayhem, for certain, but the thing that sets I Saw the Devil apart is its undercurrent of real emotion and how unrelentingly sad it can be."[13]

Rob Nelson from Variety magazine stated that "Repugnant content, grislier than the ugliest torture porn, ought to have made the film unwatchable, but it doesn't, simply because Kim's picture is so beautifully filmed, carefully structured and viscerally engaging."[14]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD in South Korea on 29 March 2011 as a 3 disc set, which contains both the Korean theatrical version and international version.[15]

Special features include:

  • Making Of
  • Art Direction
  • Action Featurette
  • Costume and Makeup
  • Special Makeup
  • Interview Collection
  • Music Featurette
  • Additional Scenes with Director Commentary
  • Poster Shoot

It was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the US on May 10, 2011. Special features include deleted scenes and "HDNet: A Look at I Saw the Devil".[16]


External links[edit]