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Kim Jee Woon’s I Saw The Devil is a really intense, unique film, one that seems to straddle many genres. Lee Byung-Hung ( G.I. Joe: Retaliation ) plays a special agent on the trail of a serial killer who murders with glee. But when he lets the murderer go, (the excellent Choi Min-sink of Oldboy fame, plays the killer) the mystery is why he’s done it, and how this unpredictable psycho will react. Deadly serious, bitter payback: you shouldn’t have to guess if this was a recent Korean movie, with its emphasis on hard-boiled revenge and moral ambiguity. But it’s more than that: the plot feels like serial killer potboiler stuff, but some moments seem like genuine horror, some like a steroidal version of early 90’s American thrillers, and a few scenes are out-and-out action spectaculars. It’s the only movie that feels like a sort of action slasher, and each stab on the soundtrack genuinely feels like a punch.
So now the question remains: why hasn’t subtitle-wary America remade this yet? Thanks to Adi Shankar and Spencer Silna of the pretty creepy-sounding production company 1984 Private Defense Contractors (huh?), an American version is headed our way. According to ComingSoon, there’s no writer or director attached yet, but Kim Jee Woon recently made his English-language debut with the tongue-in-cheek western The Last Stand so maybe they’ll give him another crack at it. It is a surprise to see another remake of a recent Asian revenge picture so soon after Oldboy just rolled into America with the force of a lone tumbleweed.
In an official statement about the project, Shankar was quoted as saying, "Kim Jee Woon’s I Saw The Devil is perfect in so many ways. The intention is not to remake the film per se but rather to ‘port’ it console-style for international audiences." Hoo boy, so much to unpack, Mr. Shankar. First of all, you could have stopped after that first sentence. Secondly, you don’t have to remake it, you can actually port it over, by attaining the DVD and placing it in your player. If you order by mail, a postal worker will port it over, and then you can port it into your DVD player. And those are just the port highlights! But seriously, please don’t try to remake a movie by making the original sound like a household appliance.
Getting Kim Jee Woon to return to the director’s chair might be the best move, but why have him do the same story again? Of course, it’s not a mark against the original film, but you kind of lose the whole thrust of the film without him. The filmmaker behind the delirious The Good, The Bad & The Weird specializes in the kind of onscreen chaos that just can’t be mimicked. I Saw The Devil has a pretty derivative plot, and it’s elevated due to the filmmaker's woozy direction. Imagining this in the hands of a dullard like Shawn Levy, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Giamatti or some other paycheck-chasing American stars instead of the perfect pair from the first film? It’s just kind of depressing, really. Catch the trailer to the original film below.