Release Date: September 11th, 2010 (Japan)
Running Time: 139 mins.
Director: Sang-il Lee
Writer: Shuichi Yoshida, Sang-il Lee (Screenplay), Shuichi Yoshida (Original Novel)
Starring: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Eri Fukatsu, Masaki Okada, Hikari Mitsushima, Ken Mitsuishi, Kimiko Yo, Kinuo Yamada, Akira Emoto, Kirin Kiki, ayaka Nakamura, kento Nagayama, Hanae Kan,
Knowing that Villain won the best director and acting categories at the 34th Japanese Academy Awards doesn’t prepare you for just how good the acting in this film is and I can see why Third Window Films has selected this as their major summer release.
Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a construction worker with no girlfriend or friends. He spends his days working and looking after his grandparents, with no enjoyment in life other than his car. Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu) also lives a monotonous life working at a men’s clothing store whilst living in an apartment with her sister. When the two meet using an online dating site, they immediately fall in love with each other despite clashing personalities and expectations. But there’s a secret Yuichi had been keeping from Mitsuyo: Yuichi is the one suspected of killing a young woman (Hikari Mitsushima) whose body was found at Mitsue Pass only a few days before. It is a murder that has left the families of all concerned reeling and as a society passes judgement, the victim’s father (Akira Emoto) searches for justice while Yuichi and his new lover try to elude the police. As the events that led up to the murder and its aftermath are revealed we learn the stories of the victim, the murderer, and their families and the emotions and desperation behind actions.
Although the film has non-linear sequences with flashbacks the film can be split into two parts, investigation and chase, but the focus is less on thriller elements in favour of character study and a reflection on the forces that shape people. This is where the film dazzles as the cast earn their stripes making events believable raising the film from worthy to moving and thoughtful as we relate to the characters and events.
Taking place over two hours, the cast put in performances that constantly challenge the audience’s views of what a villain is as the film explores the sort of despair found in modern life where façades cover up hurt, loneliness, emotional and physical trauma.
Fukatsu as lead actress puts in a brave performance. She is convincingly sympathetic as a desperately lonely woman clinging to the concept of love. Tsumabuki wows as a man trying to maintain an even keel, the audience never sure about him. As the daughter, Mitsushima is tasked with being innocent, trashy, sexy, venomous in the flashbacks various characters have and she is convincing, her final appearance emotional.
Indeed, all of the acting is pitch-perfect in conveying the aftermath of a death and exposing the heartlessness that an indifferent society can have, the audience as aghast just like the murder victim’s father as aspersions are cast upon his daughter by various people.
Direction is solid. The film is evenly-paced and beautifully shot, capturing actors with a combination of mid and long-shots with close-ups for emotionally intense scenes. No flashy editing techniques just a director allowing actors to do their work.
Everything is intelligently handled with plenty to explore. The actors add layers of mystery and character to proceedings making the film’s denouement devastating like a slap in the face as expectations are overturned. Overall a fine balancing act is achieved. With a lesser director the film might have been too pedestrian or melodramatic but there is genuinely rewarding viewing here.
UK Theatrical Release date: 19th of August 2011
Running time: 140 mins
Director: Lee Sang-il
Starring: Eri Fukatsu, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Masaki Okada, Akira Emoto