Tag Archives: I Saw the Devil

Movie Review: Ek Villain (2014)

Ek_Villain_Poster2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Despite director Mohit Suri’s protestations to the contrary, Ek Villain (“The Villain“) is a remake of the 2010 Korean thriller I Saw the Devil. A remake isn’t necessarily inferior to the original, nor are comparisons between the two always fair. Still, Suri abandons some of the core elements that made the original so compelling in favor of a convoluted, morally conflicted story that gets overwhelmed by its own ambition.

In Ek Villain, Sidharth Malhotra plays Guru, a former mafia hitman reformed by the love of a good woman, Aisha (Shraddha Kapoor). On the very day that the elements of a happy future fall into place for Guru and Aisha, she’s murdered by a stranger.

The police try to use Aisha’s murder to trick Guru into taking out his former boss, Caesar (Remo Fernandes), but clues point Guru toward an unlikely killer: a family man named Rakesh (Riteish Deshmukh).

All this is revealed early in the movie because the question is not who killed Aisha but whether her death will cause Guru to revert to his old, murderous ways. Aisha gets a lot of airtime via flashbacks to her early romance with Guru, as she softens up the tough guy with her aggressive cheerfulness and bad jokes.

Guru is underdeveloped, despite a bunch of flashbacks to how he became a contract killer. His past matters less than what he does in the present, but several key choices that would reveal the state of Guru’s character development are taken out of his hands. The subplot about Guru’s relationship with the police doesn’t make much sense, either.

Rakesh is the film’s most complicated character, so much so that perhaps he should have been the protagonist. That would’ve allowed for Suri to use an anti-hero to explore the plight of middle-class men in India, a motivating factor sited by Rakesh. But because Rakesh is only the villain, his rationale (and the lack of pushback against it) is more troublesome.

The serial killer in I Saw the Devil murders women because he considers them all to be symbols of past sexual rejection. He doesn’t choose his victims because they personally have rejected him but simply because they are there and they are women. The point of his murderous misogyny is that it is random and universal.

Rakesh, on the other hand, doesn’t murder randomly. He punishes women he believes have wronged him, whether by mocking him, by exercising authority over him, or just by asking him to do his job more efficiently.

This is a very different kind of motivation than random gender-specific homicide as it allows for victim-blaming. If only his victims had treated him politely, Rakesh might not have attacked them. Rakesh’s twisted ideology is reaffirmed by his friend, Brijesh (Kamaal R. Khan), who slaps his wife and visits brothels, which he considers the only ways for a modern middle-class man to relieve his frustration.

Brijesh’s views, Rakesh’s murder spree, and the fact that Guru is solely concerned with revenge for Aisha, not with preventing Rakesh from hurting other women, combine to create an undercurrent of acceptance of violence against women. In Rakesh’s mind — and maybe in the mind of some audience members — the women he kills had it coming.

Ek Villain invites so much analysis because Suri feels the need to explain everything. If some relevant point isn’t shown in a flashback, the characters give detailed descriptions of what happened and why. Suri isn’t content to let the audience figure things out for themselves.

The movie’s saving grace is its relatively brief runtime of just over two hours. That keeps the action moving along, especially since Rakesh delivers much of his expository dialogue while Guru is beating him up.

The music is pretty good, and there’s some fine camerawork throughout, too. An impressive fight scene when Guru confronts Caesar is shot with minimal edits in a nod to another dark Korean film, 2003’s Oldboy. (Oldboy was remade in Hindi in 2006 as Zinda, but that film totally botched its recreation of Oldboy‘s signature one-take hallway fight scene.)

Suri deserves credit for picking a quality film to recreate, and Ek Villain has a lot of elements to recommend it over other Bollywood fare. However, many of the changes Suri makes to accommodate a mainstream Hindi-film audience distract from the film’s core themes. It’s almost a success, but not quite.

Links

Opening June 27: Ek Villain and Miss Lovely

Two Hindi films are releasing in Chicago on June 27, 2014. One is an older festival favorite, while another makes its worldwide debut. The brand new film is Ek Villain, a thriller starring Riteish Deshmukh, Sidharth Malhotra, and Shraddha Kapoor that’s at least partially inspired by the 2010 Korean film I Saw the Devil. Having recently watched I Saw the Devil — one of the most graphic, brutal, depressing movies you’re likely to find — I have no idea how it could possibly be reworked for a mainstream Hindi-film audience.

Ek Villain opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 9 min. If it bears even a slight similarity to the original, you will regret bringing your kids to the theater with you.

The older film opening on Friday at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago is 2012’s Miss Lovely, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

After posting acceptable opening weekend returns, Humshakals gets a second weekend at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Holiday gets a fourth weekend at MovieMax and the South Barrington 30.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Punjab 1984 (Punjabi w/English subtitles) at the Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale and Autonagar Surya (Telugu w/no subtitles) at MovieMax, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and Cinemark Tinseltown USA in North Aurora. MovieMax is also carrying Saivam (Tamil), Bangalore Days (Malayalam), Oohalu Gusagusalade (Telugu), and Mundasupatti (Tamil).