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Junko was born with a type of ESP called pyrokinesis which she can use to incinerate anyone and anything at will. Junko is secretly in love with Kazuki, a young man who works with her. His sister is killed and a boy named Masaki suspected but the police don't arrest him. Junko tells Kazuki about her powers and takes revenge. Written by
Hot on the heels of what was at the time his greatest film, the dark and beautiful Gamera 3, Kaneko took a breather from the world of kaiju, and directed and co-wrote this adaptation of a popular horror novel. In his own words he wanted to attempt something more focused on human drama.
While it the script does occasionally meander, it is refreshingly free of the self consciousness which taints so many similar films, (such as the X-men movies) and its earnest take on the ethics of revenge is served with a fascinating dash of moral ambiguity. What's more, it has a surprisingly powerful emotional core, and one scene in particular was so unexpectedly touching that it brought tears to my eyes.
The film's greatest strength is its character development. The heroine, Aoki Junko, is one of Kaneko's most compelling characters outside of the Death Note films. The fine details of her everyday life, -such as the precautions she has taken against her own powers- add greatly to her believability, and her development as a person in response to the plot's twists and turns gives the film its backbone. Her hesitant attempts to connect with other people after a life of solitude are very touching, and provide a poignant Yin to the Yang of the brutal action sequences. Actress Akiko Yada's portrayal of Junko is strong and subtle, wonderfully capturing her emotional torment and moral uncertainty. The secondary characters and are also given a nice degree of ambiguity and depth, and are nicely acted to boot. Of these, the standout is Kaori Momoi as Ishizu, a shrewd, cynically jovial and compassionate female detective. These three qualities are a hard act to balance, but Kaori and Kaneko pull it off nicely. What's more, she gets a ton of awesome lines, such as this gem to a male colleague, "Don't look at me like that, you remind me of my dog."
Though the passionate enthusiasm he brought to GMK and the Gamera trilogy is noticeably absent, Kaneko's direction is solid nonetheless. While his pacing could use some tightening, his characteristic uses of crane shots and character mannerisms are effective, and as with his kaiju films, his artistic composition turns what could have been merely serviceable FX shots into beautiful works of art.
Speaking of the special effects, they are very impressive. While a few of the death scenes are slightly cheesy and fake, the pyrotechnics are overall spectacular, and the marriage of digital and practical techniques is daring and competent. It may look slightly dated today, but for a relatively low budget film made in 2000, it's an admirable achievement.
Sadly, the score by Ko Otani is rather weak. It adds little in the way of tension or drama, and is quite distracting at times. Furthermore, it's a serious disappointment given his usually very high standards, and the magnificence of his prior score for G3.
Overall, Crossfire has some flaws, but also enough strong positives to outweigh them. It may not measure up to G3 or the Death Note films, but it's still a well made and entertaining fantasy film with a lot more emotional depth than most of its stable mates.
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