Retribution (Sakebi) (2006)Ghosts of the past always return.
Kôji Yakusho takes on the role of Noboru Yoshioka, a seasoned detective investigating the murder of an unidentified woman in a red dress. Yoshioka is a tough character to love yet this is what makes him interesting. He obviously has issues and is prone to misplacing his temper while bouncing towards conclusions. These character flaws are what enables the story to twist and turn as Yoshioka investigates a number of incorrect theories on his path to solving the case. This introduces a number of red herrings for the viewer which maintains the mystery of the real scenario.
As the story progresses, the bodies pile up and, while all dying in a similar fashion (drowned in salt water), there seems to be no connection between the crimes. Each slaying has a different suspected murderer and no obvious connection can be found between them. The evidence starts to accumulate pointing the finger at Yoshioka as the only connection and suspicions are aroused that he is a closet serial killer. He even suspects himself for a while, convinced he is losing his mind with the appearance of the ghostly "woman in red" to reinforce his craziness. By this point in the movie it is obvious that there is something a little spooky going on or we are getting a view of a crumbling mind. Yoshioka is haunted by the mysterious woman in red and while her identity "seems" obvious the implications are skirted around. There are times when the ghost is genuinely creepy as she floats around the peripheries and there are times when the ghost aspect seems silly (like when she is flying around with the elegance of Christopher Reeve on his Quest for Peace).
When the connection is finally discovered, it is a tenuous haunting to say the least. The relationship between each of the murderers and their victims is an area of the story where a bit more effort could have been invested to solidify their motives. Maybe one of the red herrings would have been a better conclusion. Even so, eventually the loose ends are all tidied up neatly but there are still a few surprises in store as Yoshioka's true involvement is revealed.
Retribution is a slow movie but the characters are detailed enough to maintain interest. The horror aspect is delivered by a slow buildup of tension and numerous misdirections rather than gore and jump scares. There are a number of aspects outside of the main storyline entanglement that aren’t fully utilised but the viewer is given much more information than is expected from a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film. This level of explanation removes an element of fascination that is present in his other films such as Cure and Pulse and it seems that this film was trying to attract a more mainstream audience. Retribution is worth a watch but once the mystery is solved there probably isn't enough substance to induce many more visits.