February 21, 2007
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's brooding, atmospheric, surreal, and sufficiently creepy, but woefully underformed and uncharacteristically messy horror film, Retribution unfolds with the formulaic familiarity of a haphazardly (and irregularly) sutured career retrospective digest. A rumpled and overworked detective, Yoshioka (Kôji Yakusho) and his partner Miyaji (Tsuyoshi Ihara) are called in to investigate the apparent murder by drowning of an unidentified woman wearing a red dress near a shallow, saltwater depression at a recently completed land fill. However, what appears to be a routine investigation soon takes on a more ominous tone as Yoshioka becomes increasingly consumed by the unusual circumstances surrounding her death. Instinctually finding a trail of clues that curiously tend to implicate him (evoking traces of Doppelgänger) and following a rash of dead end, yet seemingly coincidentally related saltwater drowning deaths where the individual perpetrators appear all too easily caught (an amnesic, viral compulsion that recalls Cure), Yoshioka continues to be haunted by the unreconciled ghost of the woman in red (Riona Hazuki), an implacable torment that may, perhaps, be rooted in the disruption of the ecological balance caused by the city's aggressive land fill construction development and waterway redistribution of Tokyo Bay - a hypothesis that seems to be corroborated by the increasing frequency of concussive, earthquake tremors that plague the area (the profound repercussions of an upended natural order that is also alluded to in Pulse). As in Kurosawa's earlier film Charisma, Retribution channels the spirit of Andrei Tarkovsky's allusive cinema (most notably, Stalker) in its somber exposition into the profound consequences of irresponsible technology, ecological violence, and the integral interconnectedness between psychology and environment. In the end, despite illustrating the pensiveness, playfulness, and intelligence that have characterized Kurosawa's prolific body of work, the motley and arbitrary (and arguably, more fascinating) pieces of the film's irresolvable puzzle are inevitably scattered and relegated to the peripheral for an abrupt turn, accelerated conclusion - summarily abandoned and forgotten like the sunken, derelict postwar buildings that have disappeared from the ever-transforming modern landscape, erased in the ephemerality of collective consciousness.