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Kaibutsu no kikori: Lumberjack the Monster - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Kaibutsu no Kikori

Japan 2024


Takashi Miike

Kazuya Kamenashi
Riho Yoshioka
Shota Sometani
Shido Nakamura
Kiyohiko Shibukawa
Reon Yuzuki
Masayuki Deai

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Kaibutsu no kikori: Lumberjack the Monster

Kaibutsu no kikori: Lumberjack the Monster - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Akira Ninomiya (Kazuya Kamenashi) is a lawyer and a psychopath. As he thought he could benefit from it, he already committed several murders. That means he also killed the father of his girlfriend Emi (Riho Yoshioka) in order to take over his company. One day, however, Akira is attacked with an axe by a masked man in an underground parking garage. The man is dressed as the Lumberjack Monster from a picture-book, and he eventually has to flee, even though he managed to injure Akira in the head. In the hospital, the lawyer is told that he has a microchip in his head, which is completely new information to him. At the same time, Detective Ranko Toshiro (Nanao) investigates two murder cases that seem to be connected. The victims' skulls were split open with an axe and their brains were removed. After some investigation, it turns out that the victims all grew up in orphanages, even though in different ones. Toshiro suspects that Akira was also supposed to be a victim of the axe killer and pays him a visit. He hides important clues from the police, made the attack look like a robbery and has not said anything about an axe or the mask. He sticks to his story, but now he knows that he is dealing with a serial killer. Thus, he does everything he can to find and eliminate the killer without the police getting in his way...

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Review: The special appeal of "Lumberjack the Monster" is, of course, that we are dealing with a psychopath who wants to eliminate a serial killer for very personal reasons. The special highlight is that the story also revolves around the question what it means to be a psychopath and how others can be forced into being one via experiments in form of a chip implanted into the brain. But maybe "forced" is not the right word, because a psychopath doesn't mind that he doesn't feel anything - how could he? But the people around him have to suffer or die. With director Takashi Miike, there is clearly the right person for this absurd story at the helm. Because everything seems a bit exaggerated here, without looking seriously ridiculous, though. It starts with Miike's typical fountains of blood which manage to make you chuckle here and there. Apart from that, though, the story isn't really able to convince through a good narrative style. But some of the ideas are quite interesting and nicely implemented. It's never easy to pinpoint that special something within Miike's works, as he moves through different genres, but at the end of the day, "Lumberjack" is quite entertaining, even though that's as far as it goes.

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His latest work may not be as wacky as "As the Gods Will", for example, but the children's book story that the killer uses as a basis for his mask is a bit unusual, to put it mildly. However, there is also a nice analogy to the book's protagonist, as it turns out later. Since you soon realize that Akira was probably the victim of an experiment as a child, you are of course tempted to feel a little bit sorry for him. But this does not entirely work, and it also is not really supposed to. In the further course of the story, it gets a bit more complex in this regard, and the movie plays with the fact that we don't seriously know where we stand with him. This keeps the story interesting and makes sure that there are a few surprises in store for the finale. Sadly, the story is generally not well structured, though. This becomes particularly clear when the investigator, played by Nanao ("The Snow White Murder Case"), makes an appearance. After all, the investigation is not conducted very intelligently and a few conclusions even seem rather far-fetched.

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Same goes for the subplot of a detective who was forcibly transferred because he did not act according to the rule book in the past. Of course, this is also important later on. In addition, Akira's friend Emi is crucial for the story too, but as a character she stays pretty flat. Same goes for Akira's "colleague", who is just another psychopath. Of course, the viewer isn't supposed to sympathize with Kazuya Kamenashi in the leading role, but at least towards the end that might slightly change. Still, the fact remains that many viewers will have a hard time finding a real anchor in the movie. The story itself allows us to slowly warm up to Akira, but not everyone will want to do that. So, it is possible that some viewers will feel rather lost or left behind. Strictly speaking, however, "Lumberjack" wants to blur the line between good and evil, or rather it wants to ask the question what can actually be considered evil. Unfortunately, this topic is not approached with the necessary sensitivity. But it is enough to kind of make you think from time to time.

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The ending in particular comes along with a few surprises that are able to make up for some of the lengthiness and the in part unfocused script. Moreover, the atmosphere knows how to score points. There are some dark shots, and a few sets are even really creepy, but then again, the interiors can also turn out rather sterile sometimes, which reflects Akira's character and that of his friend very nicely. In terms of directing, there is nothing to complain about, but sadly, there is nothing really outstanding here either. As is with the story. You get the feeling that you've seen it all before. The drama is one of the aspects that unfortunately was neglected dreadfully, because even though you might not believe it at first, there is actually some room for that in the later part of the story. Still, it is only touched upon. Therefore, the ending also loses some of its potential. And as already mentioned before, the characters in particular should have been fleshed out a little more, so that they don't just seem like a means to tell the story.

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As a thriller, "Kaibutsu no kikori: Lumberjack the Monster" is always able to offer something thrilling and entertaining. You might also have fun guessing the identity of the killer, but fans of Takashi Miike will probably be bothered by the fact that the violence was surprisingly dialed down with this dark material. If the flick had been a bit more exploratory, the style and atmosphere would have turned out a bit more coherent. At least the movie is mostly absurd in a pleasant way, which can be quite fun to watch. Story-wise, however, "Lumberjack" falls short of what it could have been. Getting to look at the origins of a psychopath is always fascinating, and here the director should have delved into that more. In the end, what is left is a partly entertaining thriller, but it struggles with too many weaknesses and can therefore mainly just be recommended to fans of the director.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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