After a man’s daughter is caught stealing at a store and a friendly storeowner steps in to help, the man and the storeowner strike up a friendship. But when the storeowner asks the man for a favor, things take a very dark turn.
It’s funny; I watched this movie on a rather dreary Saturday when I had no plans but to hang out with my roommates and my dog, and catch up on a few longer movies. Earlier in the day, we watched “A Cure for Wellness”, and that film strangely enough had a runtime of two hours and twenty-six minutes; the exact runtime as this film. I say it’s funny because I can look at those two films, with their exact same runtime, and say that “Cold Fish” felt like it was forty-five minutes shorter. Why? Because pacing is everything in an epic. “A Cure for Wellness” feels needlessly slow- though the look of the movie was great, I almost felt as if I was wasting my time by sitting through that bore fest. In this film, however, the whole movie felt like it flew past within a matter of moments. It was a taught, suspense-ridden ride with bouts of humor, moments of meaningful drama, both believable and sympathetic characters and characters that are terrifying and unpredictable. The film itself is filled with twists and turns and grisly images that will make even the most genre-hardened fans squirm, while at the same time providing some moments of hilarity; it’s totally unconventional, and it works on almost every level.
"My philosophy: business is entertainment!"
As I mentioned above, one of the best things about this movie is it’s pacing; it starts off relatively slow, easing us into the world before rewarding us for our patience. The opening scene of this movie focuses on establishing our characters, and it’s written incredibly well. Nobuyuki Syamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi, “Love Exposure”) is a tropical fish shop owner with a daughter, Mitsuko Syamoto (Hikari Kajiwara, “The Land of Hope”) from his first marriage (his first wife died, and he almost immediately remarries), and a second wife, Taeko Syamoto (Megumi Kagurazaka, “13 Assassins”). Nobuyuki isn’t exactly happy in his second marriage; his daughter has become rather rebellious ever since his first wife died, and she’s constantly getting into trouble. Almost immediately, Mitsuko is arrested for shoplifting, and he goes down to the shop to talk to the police. Fortunately, when Nobuyuki gets there, there is another man named Yukio Murata (Denden, “Cure”) already talking to the police, and he helps talk the police out of taking Mitsuko to jail. Yukio is incredibly, almost mysteriously, friendly, and after the incident is over, he invites the entire Syamoto family back to his store (he too owns a tropical fish store), where he offers Mitsuko a job. As the film goes on, we learn more about the peculiar Mr. Yukio, and the truth is more disturbing than what one might originally think.
Now, first off, I really enjoyed the writing and dialogue in this film. As this is a foreign film, some of that praise goes to the translator for the subtitles, but as a whole, this movie was incredibly well written. It’s a film that takes its time to establish themes, settings, and characters, before really starting to mess around with them too much. But while the film takes its time to really get going, it never feels slow because we’re always learning things, we’re always being told more things about the characters, or what is going on in the world, so the film itself feels like its constantly moving. Sion Sono also takes care to weave in quite a bit of humor into the film too. While the topic is dark, it never feels so dark that it becomes hard to handle; it rides the line between real messed up and kind of funny extremely well. The film is nigh impossible to predict as well- it’s bloody and fast paced, and you can never quite guess where the characters are headed next.
Acting is another fantastic part in this film; both Yukio and Nobuyuki are absolutely fantastic in this. Nobuyuki’s character is the most dynamic of anyone in the film; his ability to flit from scared, sickened, startled, to stupefied is stupendous. I really enjoyed Denden’s performance as Yukio too; he seemed to have a lot of fun playing that character. Particularly at the beginning, when the surprises are still to come, Denden really revels in making Yukio’s character as unpredictable as possible.
Before I close I do want to say as a trigger warning that there are a couple of rape scenes in this movie- none of them are overly graphic, but one of them sort of implies that the woman enjoys it, and that’s entering into really uncomfortable questionable areas. As this is a Christian site, I’d feel bad if I didn’t at least caution viewers about those scenes.
I knew next to nothing about this film when I went into it, and I’m honestly glad about that. Not knowing what to expect from a movie allows it to surprise you far more than if you had known all about it. I’ve tried to keep this review vague because I want you to have the same experience I did. See this movie, and if you can, see it before you read too much about it.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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