I’m a big Kiyoshi Kurosawa fan but when Third Window Films announced they had two Japanese films made by Kurosawa in the 90’s I had no idea what they could be and I had little to guide me but posters and a brief plot synopsis. Less than a year on from that announcement and Third Window Films has released the two films in a set. I have watched them and I have to admit that these are two excellent crime films.
The films originate from a single offer. Kurosawa was offered the chance to make two low-budget V-cinema films in two weeks with the same cast and so he came up with Eyes of the Spider and Serpent’s Path. Both have many similarities not least the cast and story about a about a man seeking revenge for the murder of his daughter but the similarities end there as Kurosawa’s execution of both films differ. This review covers Serpent’s Path.
Japanese Title: 蛇の道
Romaji: Hebi no Michi
Release Date: February 21st, 1998 (Japan)
Running Time: 85 mins.
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Writer: Hiroshi Takahashi
Starring: Sho Aikawa, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yurei Yanagi, Shiro Shitamoto, Hua Rong Weng
The film starts with two men travelling by car in a bland urban environment. The two couldn’t be more different. The calm one who is driving is Nijima (Aikawa), a physics tutor, while his passenger who is tense and on edge is Miyashita (Kagawa) a former yakuza. The two pull up in their car outside an anonymous house. Pretending to be a deliveryman, Nijima forces his way into the house of a middle-aged man and kidnaps him, taking him to a warehouse, where he and Miyashita chain him to a wall and proceed to mistreat the man and threaten him with violence.
As Nijima hovers in the background with an air of indifference, Miyashita looks about ready to explode as he howls and paces about. He soon drags a television in front of the increasingly angry and defiant man and plays footage of a girl in a playground.
The man watches the footage incredulously but begins to get really scared when Miyashita paws at the video image of the girl and reveals she is his daughter then tells him she was brutally murdered and he wants a confession of guilt. The man is horrified and starts blaming others. Nijima and Miyashita have no choice but to continue down the path of vengeance.