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Devils - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2023

Crime, Thriller

Kim Jae-hoon

Jang Dong-yoon
Oh Dae-hwan
Choi Gwi-hwa
Jang Jae-ho
Son Jong-hak
Shin Seung-hwan
Yoon Byung-hee
Wang Ji-hye
Shin Soo-yeon

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Devils - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Detective Jae-hwan (Oh Dae-hwan) chases the killer Jin-hyeok (Jang Dong-yoon) who has some accomplices and kills his victims while posting his deeds on the internet. It takes some time for the police to get information about his whereabouts through the publications on the dark web. However, during the attempted arrest, Jae-hwan's partner is killed. Jin-hyeok manages to escape, and it takes years before the next chance to arrest him arises. During that escape through a forest, Jin-hyeok is pulled down a slope by Jae-hwan. Jae-hwan's colleagues are not able to locate either the detective or the killer. A large-scale search operation ultimately ends unsuccessfully, but a few weeks later the detective shows up with Jin-hyeok in a car that he drives into a barricade in front of the police station. The detective has lost some memories and Jin-hyeok wakes up in the hospital. He is not the killer, though, but Jae-hwan. He doesn't know how, but somehow the killer managed to swap bodies with him. He tells his partner Min-seong (Jang Jae-ho) about it, but he thinks it's just a bad joke. After a while, though, Min-seong begins to think that there might be some truth to the matter as Jin-hyeok knows things that only the detective could know...

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Review: The first thing you notice about "Devils" is the high level of violence. Which is hardly surprising since it's about snuff movies and a merciless serial killer who likes to torture his victims. The violence is ever-present, but despite some scenes that demand a strong stomach, it doesn't seem overdone. It simply fits the cruel, dark world of "Devils". Eventually, there is the body swapping aspect, though, which is clearly reminiscent of "Face/Off". While this makes the story extremely absurd, you still hear a voice in your head telling you to give the movie a chance. After all, John Woo's trip to America was also one of the most entertaining action movies of the 90s. And indeed, "Devils" makes it easy for you to stay with it, because everything always keeps moving and the movie even tries to introduce some thought-provoking motifs. But wherever there is light, there is also shadow...

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You might quickly get sucked into the wacky story, and there is a twist at a certain point that brings in a breath of fresh air too, but it is also quite abstruse. Viewers will have to decide for themselves whether they can live with it. Those who already accepted the body swapping will also be able to get on board with the supposedly "logical" resolution. It doesn't hurt the flick either that it's entertaining all the way through, dealing with revenge but also crime and punishment. The things that this leads the detective to do also blurs the line between good and evil. At a few points you even get the impression that director and screenwriter Kim Jae-hoon wanted to strike a more philosophical note in his debut. But he overreaches with that simply because the pacing of the movie leaves no time for reflection.

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The images are very dark and depict a nihilistic world, so you have to wonder how far the detective will go to protect his family. In addition, there are also some torture scenes, in which the viewers might ask themselves whether they really have to feel sorry for the victim, who did the same to others, or whether they are even allowed to watch this with a little satisfaction. Jang Dong-yoon, who is probably mainly known from drama series or "Project Wolf Hunting", gets to play the more extroverted part. Oh Dae-hwan, who is usually known for supporting roles like in "Deliver Us From Evil", is a bit more subtle in his portrayal, but both actors manage to carry the movie with vigor and have some strong scenes. This is particularly noticeable because there are a few small supporting roles with some below average performances.

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There are also a few other elements that show that "Devils" is not a movie with a huge budget. This becomes clear especially with the ending, which somehow comes a bit sudden and is carried out quite strangely, but the score plays its part too as it doesn't always fit a hundred percent and sometimes reminds you of a horror movie. Moreover, there are a few plot holes that are actually almost unintentionally funny. The detective's family doesn't realize that it's not Jae-hwan at all (in fact, there's even an explanation for that...), while a gangster immediately exposes Jin-hyeok as a fraud and attacks him - although you have to wonder who he thinks he's talking to then. A twin? Be that as it may, there are some rather strange scenes, which includes, as mentioned before, the finale and how it unfolds. This gives the otherwise gripping thriller an unnecessarily cheap touch.

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The already mentioned twist is also hard to stomach, as it includes a longer flashback, as is the partner who suddenly believes Jin-hyeok is his colleague after all. But if you can get on board with all this, you get a dark thriller that hardly allows you to have a quiet minute. Nevertheless, the story in particular, as absurd as it may be and is also allowed to be (!), would have needed a little fine-tuning. Towards the end, you get the feeling that the director didn't have full control over the plot anymore. Unfortunately, you can't help but notice that "Devils" had a lot of potential, of which only a fraction was made use of. However, it's still nice to finally get a dark thriller from Korea again that is also quite entertaining - but only if you are able to overlook the fact that it wanted to be more and also could have been more.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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