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Rage - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2016

Drama, Thriller

Lee Sang-il

Satoshi Tsumabuki
Gou Ayano
Mirai Moriyama
Suzu Hirose
Takara Sakumoto
Aoi Miyazaki
Kenichi Matsuyama
Ken Watanabe
Takahiro Miura
Pierre Taki
Mitsuki Takahata

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Rage - Film Screenshot 1

Story: A gruesome double murder keeps the police of Tokyo busy. The search for the killer stretches across the whole country thanks to a tv show talking about it. Since the murderer has undergone plastic surgery there is also a composite sketch published how he could look these days. One of the men probably fitting the description is Tashiro (Kenichi Matsuyama). He works for Maki (Ken Watanabe) at the harbor and becomes friends with his daughter Aiko (Aoi Miyazaki) who has already made quite a few bad decisions in life. The description could also fit Onishi (Gou Ayano), a shy, young man who has sex with Yuma (Satoshi Tsumabuki) at a gay establishment. Since Naoto has no place to stay Yuma offers him to stay the night with him. A relationship develops between the two. Meanwhile, Izumi (Suzu Hirose) meets backpacker Tanaka (Mirai Moriyama), who also fits the murderer's description, on a small secluded island. Izumi becomes friends with the man who works here the one day and there the other and who all in all seems to be a nice guy. Only Tatsuya (Takara Sakumoto) can't stand him because he believes he could take his girlfriend away from him.

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Rage - Film Screenshot 4

Review: The premise of this thriller drama is quite captivating. Three unconnected stories revolve around lies that we confront others with and trust which is lost somewhere along the way because of it. Every single one of the three mysterious personalities trying to hide their past could therefore be the wanted killer. However, they are not the only ones who keep secrets from others or themselves. Thus, when everything is said and done "Rage" turns out to be by no means a crime thriller, but more of a drama. The slow pacing also doesn't leave any doubt about it. The movie is still thrilling, though, particularly because of the characters being written quite interesting and the mystery about the murderer's identity being woven into the three stories appealingly. Next to that, there is also a lot to be seen on an acting level.

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It's not surprising that the story manages to be captivating since it is based on a novel by Shuichi Yoshida. Director Lee Sang-il, having Korean roots, has already successfully brought to screen his novel "Villain". This time Shuichi's story is once again peppered with different motives. For instance, there is trust, anger, but also sexual violence. This violence, so to speak, leads to a romantic relationship between Naoto and Yuma, latter one being played by Satoshi Tsumabuki ("For Love's Sake"), but it destroys Izumi's life, portrayed by Suzu Hirose ("Your Lie in April"). The movie jumps back and forth between the different stories, but in a light-footed and effortless manner. Oftentimes, these kinds of movies appear somewhat episode-like, but that's not the case here.

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In fact, it turns out to be difficult at first to find out who is supposed to serve as an anchor in the story. After the introduction of the individuals it takes a while until we get some kind of reference point, which also goes hand in hand with the fact that the characters are also put into focus with their emotional baggage right from the start. Still, the protagonists' rough edges are also the reason why we aren't getting bored at all despite a 140 minutes running time. It's too captivating to find out about the inviduals' secrets and director Lee also makes use of some tricks in order to keep us in suspense as long as possible. Moreover, there is always the possibility that the true killer could suddenly reveal himself and therefore putting the lives of everyone in danger. Of course, it takes quite some time until we get there, otherwise the movie would lose its main appeal way too soon.

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"Rage" has a prominent cast. While Kenichi Matsuyama (L from "Death Note") sadly delivers a rather too subtle performace, Ken Watanabe (also to be seen in Lee Sang-il's "Unforgiven") shows some impressive depth in a supporting role. Still, one of the problems is that most of the characters seem a bit distanced. Accordingly, it is difficult to warm to them. If anyone succeeds in this it's Tanaka, played by Mirai Moriyama ("Fish Story"). But that's the price to pay if you want the audience to puzzle about in which story the murderer is hiding. Of course the other two stories are still of importance and are also connected to each other via an invisible bond. An atmosphere of melancholy, carried wonderfully by a soundtrack of Ryuichi Sakamoto as well, also serves as an adhesive to hold everything together.

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This unfortunately brings us to a problem which may in fact divide audiences. Towards the end every one of the three stories gets extremely dramatic. Strangely enough, I didn't find this to be so much of a problem as I normally would expect. The reason for that maybe being that with time you get accustomed to certain viewing habits going hand in hand with Asian productions. Then again, the drama suddenly also bestows the kind of heart and soul on the film which we actually missed up to this point. However, maybe others get a completely different impression. Granted, a little bit more subtlety here, which otherwise "Rage" actually stands out with, wouldn't have been that bad. Anyway, "Rage" still turns out to be a well achieved drama with a thrilling story which takes its time, but also features nice pictures (as well as lens flares). You just shouldn't expect any crime movie or a particularly clever resolution at the end.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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