Monday, 5 December 2011


We cannot be murderers and victims at the same time.

Villain, based on the Japanese best selling novel of the same name by Shuichi Yoshida, who co-wrote the screenplay for the film, casts an eye on the loneliness of existence in an ordered society, where everyone and everything has a place, where there is a place for everyone and every thing, the loneliness of dating sites, an escape for young people whose existence oscillates from monotonous life at work to monotonous life at home, every day becoming undistinguishable from the previous one, or from the one which is to come tomorrow.

Where their whole existence is encompassed by the high road of just another town in the middle of nowhere, primary school, secondary school, work, home, as Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu, whose powerful and nuanced performance won her the Best Actress Award at the 2010 Montreal International Film Festival), one of the protagonists muses to Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki), whom she has met through a dating site, in a love hotel, its décor being as ubiquitous as those chain stores mushrooming in town after town, city after city, country after country, the ghost of Yoshino (Hikari Mitsushima, who seems to be getting out of her usual roles of a girl who cannot decide anything in her life, although she still plays, quite convincingly, the role of a victim here) lurking on Yuichi's head.

Dating websites become not only their way to get some excitement in their lives, as Yoshino tells a girlfriend when she was asked if she had slept with a man she just had met through the site: “That's why I met him”, but also gives them the possibility to find someone with whom to share their futures, or, find their deaths, as it is the case in Villain. For Yuichi, the man is question, his beloved powerful sports car is also what gives him the chance to escape from the dreary fishing village where he lives, and from his job as a demolition worker in his uncle's company; the haunting cinematography portraying those roads at night, the beams of the car lights drilling through the layers of realities which soon join the darkness surrounding him, the beams of that car mirroring in the beam of that lighthouse from his childhood, shining beyond the horizon, where he returns when he is in the run from the police, after having killed a young woman on a solitary dark road under those same beams. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the film, shot mostly in crowded interiors, in the car, close ups, where the wide exhilarating landscape is always seen through the framing of the car screen, or the mullions of windows, is suddenly smashed, and opened up, on that scene on the lighthouse, where the horizon suddenly fills not only the cinema screen, but also their eyes as they watch, mesmerized, the sun set – for once, the visual cliché being also broken.

Yet, that car, and those dating websites, are paradoxically no longer liberating, but have become part of that suffocating entrapment of their lives, from which they desperately try to escape, as we see a shot of Mitsuyo back to her monotonous job in a clothes store at the end of the film, just as we saw her at the beginning, or the roadside shrine to Yoshino, where her zest for life ended: The ultimate entrapment of all? Or, the ultimate liberation? It is for you to decide, and to ruminate on the truly shocking end of Villain.

Lee Sang-il and Shuichi Yoshida have used the format of a crime thriller, and a road movie, to explore this enclosed world, where there is a place for everyone and everything, succinctly portrayed in a scene in which the police drags from a minuscule capsule hotel a young man on the run, as he felt he would be blamed for Yoshino's murder, his room being not much larger than a bed, the headroom making impossible to stand up; or on Mitsuyo's conversation with the taxi driver as she also went to Yoshino's shrine to leave flowers: “If he killed someone, then he must be a bad man”. The powerful and gripping character study, we really delve under their skins, and the haunting cinematography, have sliced open the underbelly of this world, and exposed to our eyes the frustrations and despair lurking under apparently ordered and well mannered lives in an apparently trouble free society.

Villain opens with a bunch of young women having a night out, the giggles and banter soon being replaced with the darkness of the night as one of them, Yoshino, goes to meet with her date for the evening, Yuichi, yet she ends up getting into another car. This is the last we see of her. A couple of days later Yuichi, a very introvert character, drives into Nagasaki to meet Mitsuyo, whom he has also met through the online dating service. Their desire for human companionship soon overtake their initial reluctance, and the pair fell in love. However, they are soon on the run from the police, as he is suspected of murdering Yoshino.

The DVD contains an excellent and enlightening feature on the making of the film, plus a clip on a conversation between the director, Lee Sang-il, and his star, Satoshi Tsumabuki, theatrical trailer, and the usual set up controls.

Trailer and images © The Producers and Third Window Films

DVD UK release Date: December 5th, 2011

DVD Specifications: 5.1 Surround Sound, Anamorphic Widescreen with Removable English Subtitles
DVD Bonus Features: 1 Hour Long 'Making Of', Interview with Satoshi Tsumabuki and Lee Sang-Il, Theatrical Trailer

DVD released by

Villain can be bought from your local store, or from Amazon HERE.

Original Title: Akunin
Country: Japan
Year of Production: 2010
Rating: 15
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 140 mins
Original Language: Japanese
Dir: Lee Sang-il
Writer: Shuichi Yoshida, Lee Sang-il
Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Eri Fukatsu, Masaki Okada, Hikari Mitsushima, Kirin Kiki


Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a construction worker who has lived his entire life in a dreary fishing village. With no girlfriend or friends, he spends his days working and looking after his grandparents, with no enjoyment in life other than his car. Meanwhile, Mitsuyo (Eri Fukatsu) also lives a monotonous life pacing between the men’s clothing store where she works and the apartment where she lives with her sister. When the two lonely souls meet using an online dating site, they immediately fall in love with each other. But there’s a secret Yuichi had been keeping from Mitsuyo: Yuichi is the one suspected of killing the woman whose body was found at Mitsue Pass only a few days before...

As Yuichi and his new lover try to elude the police, the events that led up to the murder and its aftermath are revealed. We learn the stories of the victim, the murderer, and their families - stories of loneliness, love hotels, violence and desperation, exposing the inner lives of men and woman who are not everything they appear to be.

Who is the true “villain” here?

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