The gunplay is the central beauty in this moody tale of revenge and regret
"Freesia" has one of these nifty "Battle Royale"-ish ideas where something otherwise believed to be taboo is turned into a part of your everyday common Japanese folk's life. The goal of the matter is to present themes which effect human emotions or in the case of "Freesia" lack of emotions. Directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri the movie is a mixed bag of impressions. Kinda of weird actually because some of the stuff was extremely good while other parts were sort of disappointing. Such contrast between good and bad in a movie isn't exactly common, and it makes me wonder. Why wasn't it all good ? Surely some will like it more than I did but that's them, not me.
"Freesia" opens with it's two major plot points on-screen in text.
One is about a government law allowing people to exact their revenge on those who have wronged them. This happens through a so-called retaliation agency, they deliver a court order to the target and assign the hit men who are supposed to kill him. The target himself has the right to hire a bodyguard to defend him. The two sides receive the same weaponry, usually a handgun with a limited amount of ammo. The battle usually takes place around the defendant's home with the whole area sealed off by the military until the end of the execution. Nice concept but it's a shame the mechanism pulling it is mortally flawed thanks to the lack of information we receive about it from the movie's narrative. For example what happens to a defendant who succeeds in defeating his assassins? Or what does a success rate of 80-90% percent for a bodyguard mean, seeing as how the whole execution act is played to the death by both sides? Questions that are never answered. A shame really, a working concept becomes believable in a sense. Just look at "Battle Royale", flawless.
Two is about a military experimental missile that on impact unleashes a cold wave that freezes the surrounding area. As the story moves on we discover that a class of orphans were used as guinea pigs to test the missile's destructive power. The trio central characters played a part in that experiment. One is left after revenge, another left numb and feeling no pain is on a conscious self-destructive course, and the last full of regret just wants to be left alone. The movie ends with a bloody confrontation, comparable only to a Sergio Leone stand-off.
Now I have to hand it to director Kumakiri what he did with "Freeasia" was a cold, merciless and morally ambiguous film that at times, for thematic reasons, goes over the top gory (a woman hand is blown off). It's characters scarred by their experience with violence, show a complete lack of any emotion. Bloody and raw, the gunplay is impressive in it's simplicity. Just short outbursts of violence. Devoid of modern stylization techniques such as slow motion or the balletic acrobatics. Characters do not display Neo-like abilities. The way a gun is handled, that professional touch, those wonderful far camera long-shots and the minimalistic sound approach (no techno-metal-rock soundtrack here) that was what made the shootouts impressive. Sadly enough camera work beyond the action sequences was not so memorable. At some scenes it was either too shaky or it moved in strange angles or both. Perhaps to give the movie a more raw-documentary style, perhaps something else. What matters is that made it look amateurish when it shouldn't have.
"Freesia" is as cool, dark and brutal as it's sub-title suggests. But it's flawed plot nevertheless takes something away from the otherwise decent presentation. Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's movie was an enjoyable experience close to being something more than that.
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