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The Hovering Blade - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Samayou Yaiba

Japan 2009

Drama, Thriller

Shoichi Mashiko

Akira Terao
Yutaka Takenouchi
Shiro Ito
Miki Sakai
Hatsuo Yamaya
Hatsunori Hasegawa
Houka Kinoshita
Ryosuke Okada
Atsuya Tomotaki

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The Hovering Blade

The Hovering Blade - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Shigeki Nagamine (Akira Terao) lost his wife two years ago and now lives alone with his daughter. One day he he gets a call from the police who notify him that his daughter's body has been found. Apparently, she has been forced into a car by a group of teenagers, was made compliant with drugs and got raped. The drugs eventually led to her death. While the investigators in the case, Oribe (Yutaka Takenouchi) and Mano (Shiro Ito), are searching for the car, Nagamine can do nothing but sit idly by and frequently ask about the current state of the investigation. But suddenly he gets a call by a teenager who tells him the names of the two culprits and even the address of one of them. In the apartment of the culprit he finds a video which shows his daughter being raped. When the perpetrator returns to his apartment Nagamine learns from him that the other killer is somewhere in the mountains. Nagamine stabs the teenager in blind rage and from that moment on is wanted by the police. But the father first wants to take revenge on his daugher's killer before he gets arrested. Meanwhile, Oribe has his doubts if they really should be looking for Nagamine...

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The Hovering Blade - Film Screenshot 4

Review: "The Hovering Blade" is a movie that most likely would have completely eluded me if it weren't for the South Korean remake "Broken" which everyone was talking about and which in my book simply turned out to be a disappointment. Accordingly, you can't avoid comparing the two films, even though in this case they are compared in the wrong order. However, one thing can be concluded right away: "The Hovering Blade" comes across more natural and with fewer problems than the Korean version. This most likely is simply the case because the drama approaches the story in a subtle manner and doesn't rely on a protagonist who accompanied by a heavy drama score sheds some tears in front of the camera. Maybe this makes the film seem a bit cold on the other hand, but in the long run this gives the picture more depth.

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Especially Akira Terao ("The Professor and his Beloved Equation") deserves some kudos. His facial expression seems rather wooden, but every now and then there are sudden complex emotions emerging. Towards the end, it becomes apparent that this approach certainly pays off since the drama surrounding the plot doesn't give an incredibly cheap impression. Moreover, it's quite rare to see an elderly gentleman be the focus of a revenge story. Something out of the ordinary which "Broken" completely lacked. Akira Terao plays a man who can't go toe to toe with others when it comes to physical arguments and when he hurts himself later on he looks even less of a menace that should be taken serious. And yet he fights for getting his revenge, which makes his character just the more tragic. Here, the drama really stands in the foreground and the pacing isn't pushed up a gear in a cheap fashion.

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So in this respect the movie proves to be coherent, yet it shouldn't be left out that the pacing, despite all that has been said, can be rather tiresome at times. You certainly get the feeling that the story always presses forward, but a lot of scenes surely take their time on screen. It's almost as if empty spaces were built into the film that you are supposed to use for giving thought to the moral questions the story raises. Furthermore, the quietness in the film comes across as if being an important protagonist on its own. Particularly Nagamine's muteness reflects his loneliness and his situation of being-lost well, leading to the loss of his daughter getting near to you even more. Apart from that the suffocating quietness doesn't just create uneasiness and a good atmosphere, but thanks to it some of the dialogues get more weight, too. Some of them will even make you ponder.

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There are also moments in "The Hovering Blade" in which the scenery is celebrated on screen. The snowy mountain region is saturated with more soul than the maybe more beautiful looking pictures of the Korean remake. Also, there isn't any lack of adequate character development. Nagamine and detective Oribe, who constantly gets lost in feelings of doubt whether the father really acts so wrongly in the end or not, maybe don't show that much of their personalities on the surface, but their small gestures and words bestow a sufficient amount of color on them, making one scene in which they have an encounter even quite emotionally touching since we can see in their eyes that they understand one another in a way. Kenji Kawai's nice soundtrack is also put to good use and especially adds a lot to the scenes in which the tragic nature of Nagamine's character is supposed to be underlined.

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Thanks to its moral dilemma the story, based on a novel by Keigo Higashino, is captivating and you are required to come up with your own opinion about the legal system. After all, Japan's legal practice doesn't fundamentally differ from that of Western countries and so the question is left unanswered whether minors really never should be punished according to adult criminal law. "The Hovering Blade" scores with actors working on a sophisticated level and a revenge story which, as a welcome change, isn't presented as your usual bloody action thriller. A few of the long shots manage to impress, but all in all the flick's pacing is in fact a bit too unhurried for its own good. Despite that the film turns out to be a lot more well-rounded and satisfying than "Broken". A revenge thriller that makes you reflect and works on a subtle level.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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