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the movie errs on the side of being mawkish and blasé
RAGE is the second attempt of Lee Sang-il, a Japanese filmmaker of Korean extraction, at adapting Shûichi Yoshida's popular novels, the first being VILLAIN (2010), a critical succès d'estime, both films ostensibly inspect the malaise of a contemporary society built upon a lurid murder case.
A couple is cold-bloodedly liquidated in their home, one year later, three strands (taking place in Chiba, Tokyo, and Okinawa respectively) of narratives are cogently intersected when the police corroborate that the suspect has undergone a facelift and is on the lam, all three story lines will be boiled down to a disintegration between the initially unsuspected and the possible perpetrator, and at the same time, the film meticulously keeps dangling audience with its ever-rotating guessing game.
In Chiba, a girl Aiko (Miyazaki) sloughed from a demimonde background by her father Yohei (Watanabe), strikes a relationship with Tetsuya (Matsuyama), a reticent young man with his past concealed; in Tokyo, a self-dependent gay man Yuma (Tsumabuki), lays his eyes on a reedy Naoto (Ayano) in his usual cruising haunt, after their first penetration, Yuma invites a homeless Naoto to live with him, but the latter remains unforthcoming to a fault; in Okinawa, drifter Shingo Tanaka (Moriyama) is hidden on a small island, after chancing upon a newly-arrived young girl Izumi (Hirose) and a local boy Tatsuya (Sakumoto), their fate will go through shifting sands when an unfortunate tragedy occurs.
Thus, Lee plies audience with 3 candidates of the murderer: Tetsuya, Naoto and Shingo, and cunningly teases viewers with alternate possibilities by dint of coalescing these three's attributes into one photoshopped end product (only one revealing shot in the elevator brazenly belies the eventually misled whodunit), actually, the film is not so much a police procedural as a carefully designed weepie gauging the tenuous degree of trust among human interactions, at least in the paralleled stories of Chiba and Tokyo, the issue of trusting the one you love in spite of his carapace hammers home in a treacly manner albeit two terrific performances from Miyazaki and Tsumabuki, the former blends convincingly her unadulterated immaturity with searing vulnerability whereas the latter, palpably inputs something warm, sympathetic and enthralling to flesh out a character very easily teetering on the brink of homosexual platitude. On the other hand, a transcendent Moriyama steals the limelight in the Okinawa chapter, where the film thrusts its "rage" mythos to the fore and reveals something rotten entrenched within (a slap to both islanders and foreigners), but newcomer Takara Sakumoto is unfortunate shy of charisma to match his rival here.
As a matter of fact, acting is the movie's strongest suit because the script itself takes liberty with many wanton coincidences and artistic license to facilitate plot progress, for example, is it really necessary to bluntly play up certain characters' taciturnity as if this is the only way to keep audience hooked without spilling the beans? Also, for my money, the movie errs on the side of being mawkish and blasé, other than taking its aim at a more rapier-like appraisal of its intriguing premise (cause of the crime), Lee's film is awash with sizzling emotions (cheek by jowl with Ryuichi Sakamoto's attendant score) but in the end of the day, it doesn't reach the echelon of superiority as far as the ultimate impact is concerned.
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