Year 1997


Koji Yakusho as  Kenichi Takabe
Tsuyoshi Ujiki  as Shin Sakuma
Anna Nakagawa  as Fumie Takabe
Masato Hagiwara as Kunihiko Mamiya  
Shin Sakuma as Tsuyoshi Ujiki  
Director - Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Screenwriter - Kiyoshi Kurosawa

It's been a while since I've seen this one. It's a Japanese movie with sub-titles. As near as I can recall, there's a man wandering around Japan leaving a pile of corpses in his wake. Police inspector Kenichi Takabe (Koji Yakusho) notices a pattern, associates the man with it, and brings him in.

The man, a drifter named Kunihiko Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara), is an odd one. He so laconic that he's nearly catatonic. So, Takabe brings in psychologist Tsuyoshi Ujiki (Shin Sakuma) to try and make headway (bad pun) with the drifter.

Mamiya's guilt seems to be only circumstantial; he doesn't actually do anything to his victims except talk to them. But, wherever he goes, the people he talks to are dead with an "X" across their throats.

In some respects, this movie is derivative. Mamiya's abilities are reminiscent of the "X-Files" Pusher as well as Hannibal Lector, who could talk people into killing themselves.

So, what's a detective to do? Takabe chooses to investigate Mamiya's past, which is pretty Spartan except for his obsession with the works of Mesmer. (Mesmerism equals hynotism, don't forget.)

Through it all, there's a cat and mouse game being played between Takabe and Mamiya. In the end...I still don't get it. Maybe it was the translations which are literal and I missed any Japanese specific colloquialism link. Maybe I was expecting more and the ending was only as simple connecting the dots. Maybe the director dropped the ball and didn't get his point across. All I know is that, at the end, I was thinking, "So what's the connection between the cop and the killer?" and I never got it.

So what's right about the movie? It's an interesting, if not original plot. The characters are typical stereotypes for Japanese movies and video games. There's the workaholic estranged father, the cool as a cucumber psycho, the efficient detached government, and the lack of real emotions.

The movie hit a nice spot with me because I'm interested in Mesmer. It wasn't enough to satisfy me because only one aspect of Mesmer's work, the by-product hypnosis, was under scrutiny. But it was enough to keep me interested.

The cat and mouse game between the two men worked to a point. Then, it fell flat. Some parts of it were routine, but mostly it died because I missed the connection between the two men. Were they brothers? The same person? Two sides of the same coin? Just cop and killer? What?

It's not shabby, so if you're in the mood for a foreign, gory, murder mystery that's only original in its presentation and not in its plot, then I say watch it. I'm glad I did.

OK. I took a look around the web to find out what other people thought about the movie and decided to add my own two cents. Since this new information is added after I wrote the above, it's an additional note and you can check it out here.

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