Kawaki (2014)

Former police detective Fujishima (Yakusho Koji) suddenly gets a phone call from his estranged wife telling him that their seventeen year old daughter Kanako (Komatsu Nana) is missing. A quick inspection of her bag reveals illegal drugs, and immediately the image of a pure, honor student is shattered. Fujishima investigates his daughter’s disappearance, starting with everyone who knew her. This leads him to an underground group with links to the yakuza and a dark side to the Tokyo teenage party scene that he had never imagined Kanako to be part of.

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On a personal note, what pushed me to watch this show is its cast, which includes two of my favorite Japanese actors, Yakusho Koji and Tsumabuki Satoshi. I was pleasantly surprised that two of the best actresses from around my generation feature in this movie as well. Hashimoto Ai is brilliant even in a bit role as Kanako’s high school friend, and Nikaido Fumi was memorable for her portrayal of Kanako’s drug dealer and frenemy. All things considered, the sheer acting prowess of this movie makes it a marketable draw, but it is the central theme of Kawaki that lingers. Kanako, for all her ethereal beauty and charm, is deep inside an injurious person. She is meant to bring forth the destruction of everyone who associates with her. Much has been written on crazy, beautiful characters, but Fujishima Kanako gives a whole new meaning to that description.

One would expect Kawaki, having been directed by Nakashima Tetsuya of Confessions (2010) fame, to be all shades of batshit dark and it is. Many of the reviews I’ve read have said that the movie is a painful watch, with the blood and the trigger warnings and the fact that not a single one of the characters is essentially good. To me though – a person who does not enjoy gore at all – it is not disturbing when understood from the perspective of a film with a clear message. The reason I deplore blood in films is that I feel it is often shed unnecessarily, with the sole purpose of appealing to the alleged primitive need for bloodlust. Kawaki is sophisticated in that it goes beyond violence for the sake of violence. There is a point to all the cringe-worthy moments, and when one chooses to think of that, the movie starts to resemble a sad moment of personal epiphany.

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This blog gives Kawaki 3 out of 5 rainbow stripes. It excels in terms of being lingering, featuring a strong cast of characters, and being an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The movie, however, cannot be recommended to young and delicate audiences for its sensitive themes and demanding aesthetic.

International title: The World of Kanako.
Starring: Yakusho Koji, Komatsu Nana, Shimizu Hiroya, Tsumabuki Satoshi, Odagiri Joe, Kurosawa Asuka, Kunimura Jun, Munetaka Aoki, and Hatachiya Megumi.
Story by: Fukamachi Akio.
Directed by: Nakashima Tetsuya.

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