Monday, February 3, 2014

Film Review: Villain (aka Akunin) (2010)

Villain (aka Akunin) (Review)
Japan/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Hong Kong) (CN Entertainment Ltd.)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...it leaves you truly wondering, who is the real villain?"

Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki), a lonely blue-collar laborer, meets Yoshino (Hikari Mitsushima), an insurance saleswoman, through an online dating website. One night, when he sees Yoshino's true colors, Yuichi makes a fatal mistake...

Villain continues as Yuichi meets up with another woman, Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu), who works at a men's clothing store and leads a lonely life. They find comfort with each other, but Yuichi's prior actions come back to haunt him. And so, Yuichi and Mitsuyo spontaneously go on the run, where they learn more about each other. The story is straight-forward, while its themes dig deeper into a complex situation. The ending of the film is bittersweet, and tied up the loose ends neatly; it leaves you truly wondering, who is the real villain?

Villain, through its entirety, addresses all possible villains. It really explains why one character might feel like a villain, only to have another tell them they are not; this cycle continues as each character faces blame or feels responsible for the incident, and it actually feels very effective and unbiased. This is done through some effective character development; so, you can say Villain is a character-driven drama. At the same time, it feels like it's going in circles and it also feels like it's dragging its feet while doing so. It follows a repetitive formula to get a point across, and the point feels like its drilled into your head by the end -- some subtlety would've been beneficial. Other themes are addressed as well, such as morale, social status, responsibility, and loneliness.

Don't get me wrong, Villain blends its themes well with the plot to create a meaningful film -- a film that can be discussed, which is something that you can't say about most films nowadays. I applaud the film for addressing the issues within society -- universally, through every culture, we're slowly becoming disconnected and uncaring, and it's nice to see a film address this theme. Concurrently, it feels like it has too much filler and repetition. This, coupled with a naturally slow-pace, makes Villain feel unnecessarily bloated and uneventful. I love slow-burn films, like Confessions, but the slow-pace simply works against the film in this case.

Satoshi Tsumabuki is great as the lead delivering a strong yet restrained performance. Hikari Misushima, now with a speaking role unlike Tormented 3D, and Eri Fukatsu are also great -- Fukatsu almost steals the show. Although the entire cast is more than serviceable, I mean really great, there some clear instances of overacting -- not detrimental, but worth noting. The film is shot beautifully, and the score by Joe Hisaishi is beautiful -- the music is also a bit repetitive, though. Director Lee Sang-il captures the film well, focused and inspired.

Overall, Villain is a great drama. The characters are well-developed, and the film has a strong message -- in fact, it makes many strong statements. It is, however, hindered by a repetitive plot, a handful of bland moments, and a notable pacing issue. It's definitely a film worth watching and discussing, maybe it'll grow on me on a second-viewing.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, partial nudity and sex. (there are two sex scenes, you see the thrusting and hear the moaning.)

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