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A detective investigates a series of murders. A possible serial killer might be on a rampage, since they all are in the same vicinity and by the same method, but as the evidence points toward the detective as the prime suspect, a ghost in red follows him, and he begins to question his identity. His realization of what seems to have really happened results in something much more sinister and larger in scope, and it leaves his psyche scarred. Written by
Although the Disturbing Atmosphere of Retribution is Undeniable, so too is the Lack of Depth, Characterization and Substance
Koji Yakusho's portrayal of Detective Noboru Yoshioka, develops a character who is unimaginably stoic. This is clearly represented whenever his girlfriend Harue (Manami Konishi) leaves for work, his reply being less than satisfactory, and more of a grunt, conveying a sense of lacking appreciation. This is one such theme maintained over the course of the feature, as is paranoia, selfishness and lack of control, Noboru equally showing his character to be easily frustrated and quick to anger, which is especially heightened due to the situation he is immediately thrust into. An unidentifiable woman in a red dress is murdered during the film's opening - drowned in a pool of sea water, several pieces of evidence located around the scene implicating Noboru himself as the culprit. Fellow detective Toru (Tsuyoshi Ihara) additionally suspects Noboru, though his rush to judgement appears illogical for a skilled officer of the law, who, rather than ruling out other possible scenarios, is quick to blame a man who he has served beside for an unprecedented number of years, this aspect of the plot appearing to have been inserted in an attempt to intensify the atmosphere, however, the reckless handling of his suspicion ultimately collapses.
Not long after the murder, Noboru begins to be haunted by a woman matching the description of the unidentified victim. Riona Hazuki as the ghost is disturbingly efficient, her vapory voice, stone faced expression and stiff, almost zombie-like movements immersing viewers during the moments of her appearance. The red dress she wears is incredibly eye-catching, and the use of bland environments accentuates the audience taking notice. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa heightens this suspense with his style, the camera often capturing Ms. Hazuki's face in either a partial shot, to increase mystery and intent, or a close-up, her accusatory expression burning a hole through the screen. If she were to creep any closer, she would probably jump right out of the television - thankfully the film isn't in 3D, else I personally may have wet my pants.
The effectiveness of the ghost's portrayal is however slighted by the director's vision. Although unique, the fact she is corporeal, rather than transparent, and because of this, often employs the function of a door, rather than simply gliding through objects, seems almost strange, this peculiarity being heightened by the addendum that she has a habit of taking off like Super-Man. It is, furthermore, difficult to ascertain whether she is deserving of our sympathy, or if she is presumably an antagonist, the director affording the audience choice in this regard.
As more bodies begin to appear, killed in a similar fashion to the initial victim, the threat of a serial killer plagues largely on the minds of the police, and for some, only heightens the suspicion around Noboru's character. Despite his continued insistence that he is not complicit in the crimes after been accused by the ghost herself, Noboru begins to investigate his past, the film richly developing the notion of forgetfulness through use of the environment, especially urban redevelopment projects, and the idea that the buried past is lost to the present day, an idea further suggested by Harue's character. Japan itself is positioned during the film as a continuously evolving entity, the frequent tumultuous earthquakes, matching the unsettling inexplicable nature of the murders, not to mention the narrative's climate.
Many instances in the film are provided limited explanation: how Noboru is able locate other potential suspects, alongside random pieces of evidence after driving around for a few minutes is simply astounding, as is another sub-plot, in which the smell of a decomposing corpse is not enough to notify the inhabitant of the residence that they are sharing a house with the deceased. What is perhaps most frustrating of all is the lacking information provided in regards to characters. Noboru and the woman in red are provided just enough of a back-story to ensure the plot progresses, however, the lacking substance forbids a deeper understanding or emotional connection. Even the accusatory remarks about her death, despite been interesting, are seldom provided adequate reinforcement. The same argument could be potentially made about the modus operandi of the murders, which seems very convenient after having been provided a bland explanation. Despite this, the film accurately shows how people interpret the world, and what was a miniscule moment for one person, can be life changing for someone else.
The conclusion, which is obviously meant to shock viewers with a sudden revelation, due to the aforementioned lack of detail, is neither surprising nor impacting, and despite subtle hints being employed during the feature that mutually come together at the end, more depth is needed to position audiences to be legitimately grounded in the story of Retribution. Moreover, the interpretative and contradictory end, rather than suspending viewers in excitement, or terror, simply suspends them in a sea of questions - a testament to the film's inability to adequately provide answers. Despite exhibiting some similarity with the movie Cure, Retribution remains interestingly mysterious. However, all mysteries, to be effective, need to be adequately solved - this is largely not the case here.
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