I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boatda) [2010]

“Why do you look like you stepped in shit?”

Director : Jee-woon Kim

Writer : Hoon-jung Park

Cast : Byung-hun  Lee, Min-sikh Choi

Story : On a  cold winter night Joo-yeon waits for help because a flat tire forced her on the side of the road, but instead she is greeted by a helpful middle-aged man, Jang Kyung-chul. The only problem is that Kyung-chul  is a dangerous psychopath whose only pleasure is torturing and killing young women. When Joo-yeon, or rather the scattered pieces of her body is found, Soo-hyeon Kim, his fiancé swears revenge.

What I Liked :

– the scene where Soo-hyen Kim finds out what happened to his love is more than stunning; I’m not skilled enough to describe how painfully beautiful that scene is, I never seen such profound pain, shock and grief as in Byung-hun Lee’s eyes. Oh man, I wish I had some sort of super-writing-powers to be able to describe it better, but while I wait for that I beg you even if you couldn’t care less about the movie get on YouTube and watch this scene

– Min-shik Choi was the embodiment of evil. He managed to pull off an extremely cold, brutal, soul-wrenching performance, just thinking about him makes my skin crawl. He scared me. A fictional character in a movie scared me, that’s how good Min-shik Choi was. I think this is the most realistic portrayer of a serial killer. (just can’t believe I’m watching Uncle from The Quiet Family)

– the story itself is extremely smart, feels like a make-over of your old cat and mouse genre, but without the two main actors it wouldn’t have succeeded.

– one more important aspect  I loved is how you get trapped in brutal scenes where the tension is slowly built up by Min-sikh Choi’s evil smile and an innocent bystander who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all you can do is wait for Soo-hyen Kim and his operational conditioning tactics.(you do something bad you get punished)

What I Didn’t Like :

– I wanted to love this film as much as I do the director’s other works, but this time Jee-woon Kim just went a few steps too far.

– first of all it is extremely brutal. Brutal is even too mild a word for the movie,  it’s just one horrible and violent torture after another. For the first hour or so the violence somehow worked, but after that it became more and more violent, just playing for the shock effect.  I guess it wanted to reflect how the situation escalated and started to get out of hand, but it didn’t work for me.

– this is the typical, bit extreme, polarizing movie which had the cult  fan boys in its pocket. It is a good movie, the first half hour is unbelievably well-made where absolute every aspect was more than perfect, but as the story progressed there were several mistakes that killed my appreciation for the movie. Still after a few days you’re gonna remember you’re gonna only remember Byung-hun Lee’s quiet and deeply wounded performance paired with Min-shik Choi’s twisted attitude and you’re going to love it a bit more, even if it won’t be your favorite




– so far I managed to write spoiler free reviews, more or less, but now I just need to talk about a few scenes: first  the massacre in the taxi. Can anybody explain why was that scene needed? You already knew Jang Kyun-chul is a psychopath and there is more than enough blood throughout the movie so it could have been easily skipped; second: I know it was black-comedy element, but Kyun-chul’s cannibal/serial killer friend was just a middle finger to my already annoyed mood, and Kyun-chul ‘s ultimate revenge going after Joo-yeon family was just the icing on the cake.

–  If you read my posts, I often talk about endings, for me this is the real deal-maker or breaker, and in this case it was the breaker. Yes it was mean, evil and gut-wrenching and all the similar adjectives but didn’t feel at all in synch with the rest of the story. After 2 hours of build-up it was a let down for me, I expected something much more dramatic since Soo-hyen Kim kept repeating he wants to punish him by making him feel the same pain he did, but Jang Kyung-chul never uttered a word of love or even curiosity about his family so it didn’t feel balanced so to say. And it was more like a punishment for the family and not for the serial killer (tired of writing the long name)

Final Note :

3 out of 4

Interesting facts :

– this was Choi Min-shik’s first role after his two-year break (self-imposed exile over his protest of the Korean screen quota system)

Trailer :

spoils the best parts








5 thoughts on “I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boatda) [2010]

  1. While the film is unflinchingly brutal at times, I think that only plays into the tension trying to be mounted. This was a huge surprise hit for me, but I’m a big fan of Asian film, so I may be biased…

  2. Just recently came across your blog; have read two of your reviews so far and both have made me want to check out the movies in question. I’ve not seen this movie but am definitely intrigued. The only thing is that I honestly have a low threshold when it comes to torture scenes – the idea of someone suffering simply because it gives a sick sadist pleasure scares me senseless (though I’m at the same time intrigued by it from a cinematic point of view, if I’m honest). A certain number of Korean movies do have a tendency to be brutal… we’ll see if I can manage it.

    • I’m glad if you enjoyed my post, thank you. This movie is really, really brutal, so beware if you have a low tollerance towards it. If I could recommend you something along the line it would be The Chaser, Memories of Murder or Oldboy, they are a bit less violent but amazing movies.
      Still I have to tell it isn’t only the bad guy who uses torture. In this particular movie, the lines get blurred and at some I wondered what is the difference between the two of them, because both of their action was just extremely violent and vicious. Even though I understood Soo-hyen Kim’s need for revenge but along the way he commited things that can’t be forgiven.

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