The concept of body swapping is so fluid that it fits into every possible movie genre. It sounds ludicrous on paper, but you can’t ignore the pulpy charm of it. Director Kim Jae Hoon’s latest Korean thriller, Devils, plays the audience, or rather deceives them, thanks to their affinity for this particular concept. Body swapping is introduced as the primary tool to move the narrative forward until you get to the big reveal. How you perceive things after the reveal determines whether or not the movie works for you. I thought it was quite gimmicky. I am not saying the idea was bad, but the execution of it is hasty and bland. A little bit of polish in the screenplay and editing could have saved it by bringing much-needed flair, but sadly, things didn’t go that way.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Movie?
Detective Seunghyun gets viciously murdered while in pursuit of a group of four deranged people who kill people for fun in their neon-drenched den and make snuff movies out of it. The leader of the pack, Jinhyuk, is an absolute psychopath who is the mastermind behind all these killings. Seunghyun’s brother, Jaehwan, vows to catch Jinhyuk and this group and avenge his brother’s death.
What Happens To Jaehwan?
Thanks to an anonymous tip, Jaehwan soon finds out the location of Jinhyuk. Without wasting any time, he goes to capture the psychopathic murderer. Minseong, a junior colleague of Jaehwan who pretty much idolizes the ace detective, joins him on the manhunt. Following a frantic car-chase sequence that inevitably ends with both the cars of the police and the criminal crashing, Jinhyuk makes a run for it on foot and gets chased by the detectives. Catching the madman appears to be quite a tough task for Jaehwan because the murderer runs really fast and the area is pretty much wild terrain. However, Jinhyuk has no other option but to stop in front of a steep slope, but an aggressive Jaehwan plows right into him, which leads both of them to roll down the slope. Minseong calls out for his colleague but doesn’t get any answer.
Soon, the area is flooded with policemen, and in no time, a search operation for Jaehwan kicks off. While everyone is initially certain of Jaehwan appearing sometime soon, it doesn’t quite happen. A day goes by, and soon a month follows. Jaehwan’s wife and daughter are devastated when team leader Jungwoo puts an end to the operation. The police reach the conclusion that Jaehwan, like his brother, probably got killed by Jinhyuk. But shortly after, a car crashes right outside the police station on one fine morning. All the policemen rush to aid the passengers, who turned out to be none other than Jaehwan in the driver’s seat and Jinhyuk right beside him, handcuffed to the car. Both men appeared to be senseless as a direct result of the car accident. They are taken to the hospital, and Jaehwan soon wakes up to find himself tied to the bed. He says to himself that he is detective Jaehwan and he has finally caught the psychopathic murderer, in a way as if he needs a reminder. The camera doesn’t show his face, but when it does, both Jaehwan and we, the audience, are shocked to see Jinhyuk’s perplexed face in the mirror. This is detective Jaehwan, for sure, but he looks like the murderer now.
What Does Jinhyuk Do?
As we try to figure out what really happened, Jinhyuk has the time of his life inside the body of detective Jaehwan. Considering the kind of man he is, threatening Jaehwan about harming his wife and daughter doesn’t come as anything surprising. But soon he reveals that he doesn’t plan to live in the detective’s body permanently. All he wants is the detective to find the three other members of the group, who have wronged him. Once the job is done, Jaehwan is going to get his body back.
In Jinhyuk’s body, Jaehwan doesn’t have it easy at all. He receives the treatment of a mass murderer, which is only natural. As happens in a movie like this, Jaehwan does find a way to escape the prison and get to the task. He does find an ally in Minseong, who is initially skeptical but eventually appears to be buying the unthinkable. With Minseong’s help, Jaehwan soon gets the hold of a member of Jinhyuk’s group. Getting a confession out of the creepy old guy comes quite easily for Jaehwan and Minseong. With one down, Jaehwan has two more fish to catch in order to get his life back.
How Did Jinhyuk And Jaehwan End Up In Each Other’s Bodies?
I can’t say I didn’t notice that, despite having a ridiculous concept like body swapping, the treatment of Devils was more like a police procedural. There was not an iota of fantasy or science fiction. In fact, Minseong actually makes an attempt to get to the bottom of it by asking a doctor if something like that is possible in terms of medical science. So the movie’s big reveal, which is basically telling the audience, “Sorry to disappoint y’all, but no body swapping really happened,” doesn’t come off as that much of a surprise.
Before going into the details of one of the most boring movie twists ever, let me say this one thing out loud to avoid any further confusion. Jinhyuk always remains Jinhyuk, and Jaehwan always stays Jaehwan. Nothing out of the ordinary happens here. What happens is basically Jaehwan losing his marbles and coming up with the dumbest possible idea—brainwashing Jinhyuk into believing he is Jaehwan in order to catch the rest of the members of Jinhyuk’s group. Seriously, man, you couldn’t think of anything else?
I would refrain from using the term hypnotism, as the movie never utters it, but the process Jaehwan uses to do the deed on Jinhyuk looks a lot like that, actually. Anyway, the movie does try to throw the audience off by making Jinhyuk finally realize what has happened, followed by an attempt to trick Jaehwan into believing that Jinhyuk is still under his thumb. All this doesn’t matter as both of these characters are ultimately killed by each other by the end, but what is worse than that is the entire police force suddenly buying the body swapping theory in the end, after behaving in a logical manner throughout the movie. I don’t think we need to talk about the movie any further after witnessing something like this.