Saturday, April 28, 2007

Retribution (Sakebi)

Need New Gutter To Crawl Out From

Retribution, punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved. And for those who, like myself, have not gotten warned enough from writer-director Kyoshi Kurosawa's earlier duds like Loft, watching Retribution is retribution enough for not heeding that warning with its red light flashing from a distance. I enjoyed Kairo, but somehow the subsequent works of his which I've watched, failed to captivate just as much.

Simply put, Retribution contains all the classical elements of things that go bump in the night, the Kurosawa way. Don't expect sudden boos - you'll get long takes, the quiet, and something I've always admired, how spirits appear in the background so gradually, it's actually frightening. But too much of a good thing becomes cliche, and spicing it up by making them fly like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix sequels, just reeks. This movie too suffered from too many of the same type ghouls, and having one of them, the sticky Woman in Red (Riona Hazuki, whom I swear looks very much like local TV actress Jacelyn Tay) letting out cries that can challenge any siren, inevitably makes you want to cover your eyes each time she appears.

As the story goes, Koji Yakusho, a Kurosawa movie regular, plays a veteran detective Yoshioka assigned to investigate the homicide of the woman in a scarlet red dress, who was drowned in salty water accumulated in a puddle at a construction site. Curiously enough, the evidence all point to him - his whereabouts unknown, and a button at the scene which could have come from his own jacket. The problem is, he has no recollection what the heck had happened, and neither does he know the girl. Along the way, he seemed to be guided by this invisible force which he calls his hunch, to nab other suspects in other cases of similar modus operandi - that of drowning in shallow salt waters.

It's pretty much a character study piece of Yoshioka, with many flashbacks and numerous attempts tying up its convoluted loose ends. His nasty demeanour of unorthodox tactics (I just love that chase up the rooftop and its resolution of that scene) make him unpopular, and when alone, his relationship with his beautiful girlfriend Harue (Manami Konishi) makes you wonder why the bad boys get all the nice girls. Anyway that aside, it's precisely these relationship issues that put the entire story on a spin, and which I thought for a man like him, saving his whisky bottle during an earthquake speaks loads.

As mentioned earlier, the production is almost minimal, especially with Yoshioka alone in his apartment. The movie's not for everyone, and restless teenagers are better off leaving the theatre rather than to vent their displeasure at the other folks who want to endure this. There are a few surprises in store for those patient enough to wait till they emerge, but therein arose more questions to be answered. You wont get satisfaction watching this movie, all you get is retribution for wasting time watching something quite hokey and clunky.

If there's only one thing I like about the movie, it's that one special effects shot involving a water pan towards the end. Blink and you'll miss it.

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