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This is a grim, cleverly plotted revenge story from Kiyoshi Kurosawa - and aside from his brilliant Cure, perhaps his best film. On the surface, it's an uncompromising story of revenge. When a man loses his daughter in a brutal attack, the father connects with a man, a mathematician, clear-minded enough to help him have his revenge. But murder would be too easy; and that's where the cold, calculated tale takes unusual turns.
Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) sets his story in a drab, unflattering version of Japan where mercy is a rare commodity. In fact, the hallmarks of an Akira Kurosawa film - humanism, literacy, grand visuals - are mostly inverted. The antagonist is caught in the first few minutes, so the remainder of the film is a penetrating psychological study that's sometimes also cruel. At the same time, the director uses the template of a standard revenge story to explore something wider and deeper, and it's thrilling to watch the tale unfold. There's no musical soundtrack, no "feel-good" comic moments to escape into; it's as cold as it fascinating, all the more amazing for its unwillingness to compromise. It's not a typical revenger, and it's all the more exciting because of it. First rate.
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