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The Devil's Path - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2013

Crime, Thriller

Kazuya Shiraishi

Yamada Takayuki
Pierre Taki
Lily Franky
Chizuru Ikewaki
Katsuya Kobayashi
Yu Saitoh
Jitsuko Yoshimura
Izumi Matsuoka
Ryotaro Yonemura
Kazuko Shirakawa
Jiji Boo
Nozomi Muraoka

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The Devil's Path

Story: Fujii (Yamada Takayuki) is a reporter who is ordered to answer the plead of a letter by yakuza Sudo (Pierre Taki). Sudo is writing from prison and wants to take revenge on his former boss Kimura (Lily Franky), before he most likely gets executed. Fujii meets Sudo in prison and the gangster confesses to three more killings the police doesn't know about yet. The only problem is that Sudo can't remember any details about the crimes and so the reporter is starting to look for evidence of these crimes. Soon, Fujii has found enough clues to link the different crime cases to one another, but he still hasn't any concrete evidence. Thus, the newspaper Fujii is working for doesn't want to publish the article, but the reporter is continueing his investigation on his own. At the same time Fujii neglects his family and leaves his wife (Chizuru Ikewaki) with his senile mother (Jitsuko Yoshimura). Despite his wife's pleads that she can't continue taking care of his mother without going crazy the reporter tries to escape his problems by sinking his teeth into Sudo's case.

Review: Where does justice start and when does it turn into a dark drive for vengeance? This is how a promotional line to "The Devil's Path" could read. A crime movie which strongly wants to work on a character level, but reveals too little about the protagonists for us to actually take an interest in them. It becomes apparent on several occasions that the film aims at shedding light on serious and profound themes, but with its quiet, explorative nature the thriller turns out to be self-absorbed and lengthy one time too often. The story itself is told way too unspectacular and it lacks any kind of emotional impact. Ultimately, this thriller can't succeed in what it actually aimed at. Making the viewer reflect on what law and justice means.

The Devil's Path - Film Screenshot 11

The story is taken from a novel, which itself is based on true events. That sounds interesting, but when it comes to telling this story director Kazuya Shiraishi approaches the material in a quite uninventive manner. At first, everything starts with a premise that whets our appetite, but soon it turns out that the story is presented in a very conventional way. After Fujii has done some research Sudo's story is put into the foreground, only for us to return to the present later. The reporter and his story thus serve as a framework. Obviously, some weight is also supposed to be put on Fujii's personal life and his constant descension into the depths of evil. But that point is missed completely since the reporter is as elaborately sketched as the essay of a ten-year old.

The Devil's Path - Film Screenshot 12

Therefore, a feeling of frustration soon settles in. Takayuki Yamada ("MW") looks into the camera with a grim face most of the time, apart from that he has the characters traits of a tree stump. He is absorbed by the case and takes it more serious by the day, but next to that we know nothing about what is going on inside of him. However, we get to know a little bit about his family and his wife, who has to take care of his deranged mother and is about to collapse because of that. This little drama is the only thing that at least indirectly gives Fujii something of a human individual, even though he himself is actually horribly cold towards his wife. Accordingly, it is difficult to get engrossed in the movie and only Fujii's scenes with him talking to Sudo in prison can help you make out something like an individual behind the wooden mask.

Although "The Devil's Path" destroys any kind of suspense with its predictable developments - even the ending can't suprise, despite the fact that it features a small revelation - there is at least one individual in the shape of Sudo that seems multi-layered. He is clearly a villain, but he also has a human side - contrary to Fujii it seems. The psychological mind game with Fujii is without any appeal and heading nowhere, though, as his moves in the game to win over Fujii for his story by only giving him small pieces of information and make him work out the rest for himself are very predictable. More exciting is his life and the gangsters he deals with. There is murder, raping, and sometimes things even become pretty bloody and all the time you wonder why the villains have more charisma than the hero.

The Devil's Path - Film Screenshot 13

Ultimately - and that's something you shouldn't lose sight of - this is supposed to be a revenge thriller as well. The movie turns out to feature a shallow crime story, but sometimes you get the impression to get a mix of "Confessions" and "Outrage", sadly without the style, atmosphere or smart screenplay of those movies. Particularly towards the end "The Devil's Path" tries to look smarter than it actually is. Somehow you can make out that the film in its core wants to depict that revenge can be transformed into justice and the other way around, but that doesn't make the story any more thrilling. An unspectacular screenplay and a lifeless protagonist as well as an unforgivingly immoderate running time of 128 minutes make this crime movie a forgettable affair, that believes to play in a league it simply isn't part of despite some acceptable yakuza characters.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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