Plot: What’s it about?
Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) might look normal, but this middle aged man has a severe dark side, one that pushed him to a seventy-eight day spree of violence. His father Shizou (Mitsuko Baisho) recalls an event that caused a rift between he and his son, but the real motivation for Iwao’s rampage is unknown. His wife left him and returned only at the request of his father, so once he begins his assault, Iwao has no family to depend on. The first blood was spilled when Iwao murdered some coworkers, then turned his attention to two others, with no rational explanation evident. As the police tried to track him down, Iwao stayed a step ahead and even found some help from unsuspecting citizens. He starts an unusual relationship with a prostitute and moves into the Asao Inn, where he poses as a professor. All the while however, Iwao continues to commit crimes, from theft to cold blooded murder, with the police unable to find him. What drives Iwao to be such a cruel and remorseless person and even if he is captured, is there any kind of true justice for his actions?
Based on real life events, Vengeance is Mine chronicles the tale of one man’s madness and the violent path it forces him to walk down. Shohei Imamura directs this vicious story with a documentary like approach, so there is a sense of realism and of course, that only serves to make the violence more brutal. There are still the kind of stylistic touches you’d expect, but this is a very natural, in the moment kind of atmosphere. Of course there is a narrative, but it seems to be more frenetic and free wheeling than most, this doesn’t feel like an on the rails kind of picture. The camera moves fast and often, as if it were a spectator unable to keep up with the chaos, but this adds to the experience, never a distraction. This is a dark, brutal movie that explores a mind of evil, so don’t expect happy clouds or what not from Vengeance is Mine. Imamura’s direction is excellent, putting us right in the middle of the madness and never letting us escape, even for a moment. Criterion’s release boasts an impressive new transfer and a few extras, but I think this movie is best suited as a one time watch. I doubt many people will want to revisit this chaotic rampage, so while the movie is recommended, a rental should suffice.
Video: How does it look?
Vengeance is Mine is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer represents business as usual for Criterion, with yet another dynamic, incredible presentation. Of course, the image has been restored and remastered, to remove countless instances of unwanted grain, nicks, and other debris from the print. This yields more depth and detail than previous versions, so the visuals have more life than we’re used to. That is tremendous news, as the visuals are stunning and in this new transfer, they shine like never before. In short, this is a very impressive presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Japanese mono track is included, which offers a solid overall experience. As you would expect from any mono track, range is limited, but I was pleased with the clarity and sharpness found within this track. The elements never overstep their boundaries, which means each remains distinct and bold, never overshadowed or buried under the others. The dialogue is excellent, no volume errors or harshness can be found in the least. This one won’t rile up the speakers, but it sounds terrific. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, in case your Japanese is a tad rusty or what not.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes an interview with Imamura, as well as the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers.