When it comes to family-focused dramas, Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of the best directors, some go as far as calling him an ‘auteur’. his latest film, The Third Murder is a departure from his usual affair, dipping his toes into a crime drama. From fractured family life to noir-esque cerebral drama, that attempts to justify capital punishment in Japan.
This is a complex film of one man’s hunt for the truth whilst investigating a savage murder. Masaharu Fukuyama (Like Father, Like Son)plays leading lawyer Shigemori who represents the accused Misuni (Kôji Yakusho, The Eel, Babel, 13 Assassins).
Musini is remorseless for his actions, as he previously done time for murder before, 30 years for killing two loan sharks. This time he’s killed his former job’s boss. He freely admits to his crime when asked despite the death penalty looming over him. Shigemori feels his chances of winning the cases are very slim. He must dig deeper hearing testimonies from the witnesses, victims family, and Misuni himself. Thanks to this the once confident lawyer begins to doubt whether his client is the murderer after all.
From the opening minutes of the film, we can see nothing was going to be held back. You are greeted with the ‘accused’ battering his victim to death. The cinematography really helps to set the tone of the film. Beautifully cold, stark which gives the whole film a contemporary noir-esque feel, very similar to the likes of David Fincher‘s Se7en even Nordic Noir films. Very naturalistic style.
Kore-eda’s filmography (Like Father Like Son, I Wish, Our Little Sister, After The Storm)are all observational study towards the family life, very emotional. Whilst we’ve mentioned The Third Murder is a departure for the director, it still shares many parallels to his previous films. Relationships are teased but not always on the family, between the characters. Things do get very intense as this is a dialogue driven where most of the action happens in the courtroom or between a glass panel in prison.
The Third Murder is not interested in who is guilty, the opening scene settles that case. When Misuni is questioned, he constantly changes his story this pushes Shigemori and his defense team into astonishment and desperation. It’s at this stage your left wondering if the accused was seduced or even blackmailed into killing his victim? Was it the victim’s wife (Yuki Saito) or teenage daughter (Suzu Hirose)? Was the victim abusing both of them or something else? Emails lead you to think about the true motives behind the killing have not been revealed.
The Third Murder own rationale is not to find a conclusion or verdict to the crime. Both Shigemori and the prosecution prove they will do anything to get the result they want. This highlights the corruption is rife in the Japanese legal system. If anything it’s your own ethical/moral compass is whats on trial, not the accused.
The script may let this film down at times but keep the faith we do have one of the best filmmakers at work here. Hirokazu Kore-eda delivers a chillingly stark social commentary that will ask you to justify a nation’s attitudes towards capital punishment. Compelling watch.
Paul Devine | [rating=4]
Crime, Drama | Japan, 2017 | 15 | Subtitles | 23rd July 2018 (DVD, Blu-ray) | Arrow Films | Dir.Hirokazu Kore-eda | Masaharu Fukuyama, Kôji Yakusho, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Yuki Saito, Suzu Hirose
DVD SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
Standard Definition DVD presentation
Original 5.1 surround sound
Optional English subtitles
The Making of The Third Murder, a new featurette on the film’s production
Tony Rayns on The Third Murder, a newly filmed video appraisal by the expert on Asian cinema
Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options