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Original Title:

Japan 2010

Drama, Thriller

Lee Sang-il

Satoshi Tsumabuki
Eri Fukatsu
Akira Emoto
Matsushima Hikari
Okada Masaki
Kiki Kirin
Sabu Kawahara
Masaki Okada

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Story: Yuichi (Tsumabuki Satoshi) is working on a construction site and is taking care of the elders in his home town. He spends his time with women he contacts on the internet as is the case with Yoshino (Matsushima Hikari). Yoshino is actually in love with the student Masuo (Okada Masaki), though. Therefore she even demands money of Yuichi if he wants to meet her. One day she walks out on him when she by accident runs into Masuo. Yuichi follows her and Masuo. The next day the lifeless body of the girl is found. The police is looking for the murderer while the young saleswoman Mitsuyo (Fukatsu Eri) contacts Yuichi. The two meet and despite a bad start there seems to be a serious relationship unfolding between them. However, the police is now looking for the young man as a suspect and even interrogates his aunt (Kiki Kirin) about him. Meanwhile, the father of the dead girl (Akira Emoto) is searching for answers on his own. Is Yuichi really the killer?

Review: "Villain" has been an extremely successful movie in Japan and won numerous local awards. Rightly so and at the same time maybe not. The drama about a "bad man", which is the original title, is amazingly complex in its illumination of Japanese society as well as it is minimalistic when it comes to the love story and narration. But the film has also been hyped a bit too much, because with its pretty slow pacing and its 140 minutes running time it also demands quite some patience. Still, you can't deny that "Villain" is working out so well especially because it is so honest and direct. Here, no one tries to move the audience to tears in a cheap way.

That shouldn't be a suprise to anyone as Lee Sang-il has already delivered a successful movie with "Hula Girls", yet steps on more dark and dramatic ground this time. The story is based on a novel by Yoshida Shuichi who has also co-written the screenplay. The plot revolves around loneliness, guilt, good and evil as well as the effects the crime has on the relatives and parties involved in it. The loneliness of the young generation is carried by the two protagonists who are acting incredibly cold and thus allegorize the distance that has built up between the residents of a big city despite rushing through crowds of other individuals day by day.

Accordingly the dialogues between the individuals are always kept emotionally distanced and it also is rather difficult because of that to really judge the characters. Yuichi first wanted to find a girlfriend through the internet, yet was used and hurt in the end. Thus, he tries to approach Mitsuyo in the same shallow way he was treated with, but he has picked just the wrong one for that as she is looking for an honest relationship like he was. Pain and disappointment are bound to occur but none of the characters really acts flawlessly which is also why it's so difficult to simply demonize the murderer after his identity is uncovered.

This is the biggest asset of "Villain". The murderer knows that he has made a mistake, unfortunate circumstances and a nerve-rackingly shallow girl, who under her surface just has her own share of character flaws, made him kill and so the director tells the story of a man that is also a tragical figure. The ambiguity that he is characterized by doesn't simply make us hate him but puts us into the unpleasent situation to look at his personality in a more differentiated manner.
Main actor Satoshi Tsumabuki ("Dororo") delivers a proper portrayal, but he is also a but too reserved and cold so that we only get hints at his emotional life. It is fortunately different when it comes to Eri Fukatsu ("The Professor and his Beloved Equation"), who can bestow depth upon her character and this even though she easily could have become the naive lover.

A few of the subplots like the one of Yuichi's mother, who is indirectly affected by the murder as well, or the father of the killed girl who thinks of taking revenge into his own hands, complete the positive overall picture, even though it would have been possible to achieve more in this respect. Especially when you consider the running time of the movie. In the end the movie runs somewhat out of steam during the last third but the finale soon let's you forget that. That is when the profoundness of the drama that distinguishes "Villain" from other works comes to the foreground and that's also what makes the movie so worthwhile. The honest emotions, the dark mood that is almost deprived of any hope and the love which maybe can overcome this hopelessness after all, make this well done drama stand out from the rest.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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