By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I mentioned in my review of Quartet that I was recently at the mercy of American Airlines for roughly 50 hours in the space of ten days, so as you can imagine I ran out of entertainment options fairly quickly. This Japanese film I’d never heard of, and judging by Imdb, neither has any English speaker, but due to the fact that both AA and Air Japan decided it was worthy of one of two non-English language slots along with Amour, perhaps word will get out eventually.
Strawberry Night does have a night or two, but no strawberries that I could spot.
This one at least had pie
What it does have is a series of what appear to be serial murders of Yakuza gang members, a smart, no-nonsense investigator with a checkered past, Reiko Himekawa (Yuko Takeuchi), and a Yakuza boss, Isao Makita (Takao Osawa), who may be the key to the mystery, and a person she finds herself increasingly drawn to.
This alls sounds a bit stereotypical, but kudos to director Yuichi Sato and his stars for elevating it. The film is overall well-framed and shot, with some innovative angles and a nice polished style. The acting is good and helps raise the stakes for the characters, and the plot is nice and convoluted, revealing itself piece by piece and keeping you guessing, walking the delicate line between intriguing and completely losing the audience without ever tipping to the wrong side.
The climax hits with a punch and wraps all of the loose ends up well, with a fucked up reveal that, of course, involves incest, something Asian thriller directors love even more than Appalachian hillbillies. Also, Reiko has a really sweet umbrella.
The film begins with a closeup of Reiko’s eyes, as she refers to some damaging event in her past and vows her revenge, Kill Bill-style. The movie then proceeds to do absolutely dick with that. It instead segues into an overedited sequence that establishes the central story of the film in a way that’s much more oblique than it needs to be, and leads you to believe it’s her story when very quickly after we learn it isn’t. It’s just unnecessarily confusing.
The film’s style is strong, but not everything Sato throws at the wall ends up sticking. The black and white freeze frames of the murder scene flashbacks in particular look like cheap TV-level stuff even CSI would be ashamed of these days.
This Japanese thriller has enough thrills and plot twists to make it worth a look.
Take a Drink: anytime Reiko busts some balls
Take a Drink: whenever it rains
Do a Shot: for every closeup of food
Take a Drink: whenever there’s sabre-rattling between Homicide and Organized Crime
Do a Shot: every time Kikuta punches somebody in the shoulder