The Woman in Red
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 05/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Retribution" (Japanese title "Sakebi" meaning "Scream") is a classic yurei tale. Director Kurosawa Kiyoshi has decided to draw within the lines, keeping all the elements of this traditional Japanese monster, while giving the film some of his personal touches.
Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse) has proved time and time again that he is a force to be reckoned with. Many of his films fall within the horror genre, and they all carry Kurosawa's heavy tone. "Retribution" is no different. Even while playing within the confines of tradition, the world-weary nature of his characters, the idea that even the best of us somehow deserves what is inevitably coming, all comes through strongly. Kurosawa has a vision with his films, and one that I enjoy very much.
The story of "Retribution" is a horror/detective pairing. A police officer Yoshioka (Played by Kurosawa Kiyoshi regular Yakusho Koji), is called to the scene of a grisly murder. A body has been found, lungs full of seawater, and all signs point to Yoshioka being the murderer. At first he is tempted to hide clues, but since he knows he did not commit the crime he keeps investigating. More murders follow, all involving the same MO, all committed by people who should not be committing murders. Into this strange mix are two women, a haunting Woman in Red (Hazuki Riona) who seems to appear and disappear, and Yoshioka's girlfriend Harue (Konishi Manami) who tries to help Yoshioka but finds herself constantly being pushed away and pulled closer.
"Retribution" is a very good movie, although not a particularly scary one. The film concentrates on mood and story more than chills, and although there are a few shocking moments for the most part the pace is quiet. With every Kurosawa Kiyoshi film I see, I love his style of horror more and more. It is psychological and supernatural horror all at the same time, with recriminations for society's growing coldness and isolated nature.
The DVD for "Retribution" has a few good extras, including a "Making of.", an interview with Kurosawa Kiyoshi, and an Alternate Ending and a special "Making of the Alternate Ending.""
Huh? oh. yes.
ThorBiddlesworth | 02/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This definitely is a movie that demands focus and thought from its viewers. Watch this to give your brain exercise. There's plenty of other movies out there to keep you mentally lazy as heck.
Cure and Pulse are my two favorites by this director, but this movie is right up there too."
Not Kurosawa's best by a pretty wide margin, but interesting
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 06/30/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Retribution (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2006)
Kurosawa may be no relation to Akira Kurosawa, but there's no denying that he's created some of modern Japan's most enduring and distinctive cinematic artifacts (Cure, Charisma, Bright Future, and Eyes of the Spider were all Kurosawa joints, among others). Retribution, his second-most-recent film as I write this (and I am camping at the bit to see his newest, which I'll get to do in about three weeks), is a rare miss from the talented director, but even when he misses, Kurosawa's style is enough to at least make the film watchable, if not memorable.
Noboru Yoshioka (Kurosawa regular Kôji Yakusho, who might as well be giving us the reason his character ended up leaving the police force in Charisma; it's amusing to think of this as a prequel) is a police detective on the hunt for a serial killer. Once we've gotten a while into the movie, we start to realize that something's weird here--all the evidence is actually starting to point to Yoshioka as the prime suspect. About the same time this makes itself known, Yoshioka starts seeing a ghostly woman in a red dress, who he quickly realizes is one of the killer's victims. But is she here to aid Yoshioka in finding the killer, or take retribution on him for killing her? (In case that seems obvious, I'll mention that the title can be read either way.)
If you've seen a few of Kurosawa's films, you're probably used to the seemingly unique way he structures his movies, so that even when they're remakes (Séance) or ripoffs (Cure, which is a direct descendant of Silence of the Lambs), they're unmistakably Kurosawa. That said, in every Kurosawa movie I've seen except this one, there's more than that structure to make it work--the story takes an entirely unexpected turn, the settings are so perfect that you wonder how many years Kurosawa spent scouring aerial photographs to find them, the acting is beyond Oscar-quality, what have you. This one's missing it all; the actors are competent, but no one save Yakusho really stands out, the locations are generic, the story is an amalgam of a few different recent Asian ghost flicks and western mysteries (for which Kurosawa has a distinct fondness). And, of course, there's the ghost with the long black hair and the weird movements. Man, she does get around, doesn't she? I don't think there's a single fan of Asian horror movies who can't rattle a dozen movies in which ghosts like this have appeared off the top of his head. We get it, guys, but you know what? It just ain't creepy no more.
If you're a Kurosawa junkie (and we all should be), obviously you'll have to see Retribution at some point. If you're new to his movies, however, there are many, many better places to start, a number of which I've already mentioned in this review, any of which are worth your time. (My personal favorite is Charisma, but I started with Cure and it remains one of his strongest films, in my estimation.) Get to this one later on. ***