Fantasia International Film Festival has always had a stellar line-up of feature debuts, and it continues that with Devils by writer-director Kim Jae-hoon. A psychological thriller, Devils rips through its characters with violence and keeps its audience on edge. With the stellar and enchanting Oh Dae-hwan and Jang Dong-yoon as our leads, this film is a head-on collision between killer and detective, where revenge and morality blur.
In Devils, Jae-hwan is a homicide detective in major crimes assigned to take down a ring of serial killers who have been creating snuff films and terrorizing the city with a body count that includes Jae-hwan’s brother-in-law. While this evil is large, it’s also personal. Having experienced loss, it drives his obsession with catching the killer at the center of it, his rage propelling him forward and removing all fear of risk in the process. The film’s first act is a crazed hunt that ends in apparent tragedy, with the murders continuing. However, when the two collide, Jae-hwan wakes up in the hospital, and only he has Jin-hyuk, the murderer’s face. Trapped in each other’s bodies, Jae-hwan has to figure out how to bring the killer to justice while inhabiting his body and save his family too. But that’s only the beginning.
Devils is a sharply honed story with twists that keep the audience engaged. Smartly designed to drive a tension-filled spike through the narrative with large swings, violence, chaos, and manipulation, Devils is a showstopping debut feature from director Kim Jae-hoon. While that comes from his ability to craft a mystery that doesn’t resolve itself until the very end with large emotional beats, Oh Dae-hwan and Jang Dong-yoon carry the massive weight of this acting assignment. Both men play two people, switching between them sometimes in a blink.
For his part, actor Oh as Jae-hwan is driven, able to be vulnerable as he’s eaten by revenge in a style that references a detective from a noir thriller, only to become the cold and callous killer that is Jin-hyuk. It’s artful the way Oh Dae-hwan builds his character. Not to take away from Oh’s tremendous performance, but actor Jang as both Jin-Hyuk and Jae-hwan is such a chilling oscillation in the midst of great brutality that he steals the show.
It’s uncomfortable to watch Jang Dong-yoon as Jin-hyuk because his malice is not without emotion. Instead, he’s brimming with joy and chooses that every act of violence becomes an endeavor on screen. The acting ability needed to transform his emotional quiet moments in the film where he is playing a man older than him and the maturity that comes with that is breathtaking. Balancing that with the unbridled demon that is Jin-hyuk in the midst of violence is a feat that demands your attention. Throwing not just his face but his body into intense sequences is a thrilling experience for audiences and with an unhinged discomfort attached.
As Devils’ story unfolds and the motivations for each character reveal themselves, the derangement of the film and the choices in it stick a landing that you won’t expect. Twisting through lies and revenge, the pressure is non-stop, and that’s what makes this swing-for-the-fences concept a roaring success. With minor pacing hiccups, Devils a fantastic addition to the thriller genre and one that deserves to be seen.
Devils screened as a part of the Fantasia International Film Festival 2023.
As Devils story unfolds and the motivations for each character reveal themselves, the derangement of the film and the choices in it stick a landing that you won’t expect. Twisting through lies and revenge, the pressure is non-stop and that’s what makes this swing-for-the-fences concept a roaring success.