“Vengeance Is Mine”
Directed by Shôhei Imamura
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray in a New Transfer
This movie answers the hypothetical, “What if Martin Scorsese, not Steven Spielberg, had directed ‘Catch Me If You Can’?” In Japanese new-wave titan Shôhei Imamura’s 1979 take on a 1960s-set true-crime tale, Iwao (Ken Ogata) is a bit of an overgrown kid—in his 30s, he’s still playing pachinko and taking pocket money from his elderly mother. But he’s also a remorseless borderline-sociopath who turns a robbery into a double homicide and then a spree, lying, grifting, and killing his way back and forth across Japan and hiding in plain sight. The Scorsese flavor shows up in some of the shots (especially some epic overheads) and the brutal violence and frank sex. Most of all, though, it’s there in the moral relativism of the world Iwao terrorizes. He may be a cruel and ruthless killer, but his devout-Catholic father (Rentaro Mikuni) spends the film skirting a love affair with his son’s comely young wife (Mitsuko Baisho). And then there’s the time the ad hoc couple torture a dog to death (slightly off-camera). Iwao washes up at a seedy little hotel at one point, and the sweet proprietress (Mayumi Ogawa) takes him into her bed. But she is a procurer and a kept woman whose life has been ruined by her loyalty to her elderly mother (Nijiko Kiyokawa), a murderess and supreme creep herself. There is surely a critique of Japanese society smuggled in here for the culturally attuned to read.
Imamura’s film is not without its quirks: He hopscotches the chronology early on to somewhat dubious effect, and a dip into magical realism at the very end might be a stumper for some viewers. But the sheer pulpy/poetic power of the director’s look at the crimes and secrets of this set of characters makes it worth the stretch. (Lee Gardner)
Available on DVD/Blu-Ray and streaming on Amazon Instant and Netflix
Here’s a low-stakes action movie starring Jason Statham and scripted by Sylvester Stallone, with vivid villains (a ruffled-potato-chip-chomping meth lord played by a doughy James Franco and Winona Ryder as an entreprenurial “methwhore”), in which most events are believable and when they aren’t believable, they’re just plain badass, such as Statham beating up four dudes with his hands literally tied behind his back. The plot: Phil Broker (Statham), a widower and former undercover cop who busted a meth ring, now lies low in a small town with his daughter until she’s bullied by a boy at school and when she kicks his ass, it leads to trouble from the rednecks who still believe in feudin’ and honor and all that. Also, most of them appear to be severely addicted to meth, so they’re dependent on Gator (Franco), who isn’t so excited to have a narc in town.
“Homefront” is hicksploitation for sure, but its vision of the lower class is lived-in (characters work regular-ass jobs and wear clothes from Wal-Mart and their kids have disabilities and addiction isn’t portrayed as contemptible) and it includes some moments it totally doesn’t need to include, such as the only black guy in the entire movie saying “Fuckin’ rednecks, man” as his dying words and a very touching scene in which Phil’s daughter says this about her dead mom: “I miss her so much that my stomach hurts.” Plus, director Gary Fleder has a Roger Corman-like sense of knowing what matters and what doesn’t matter. So, Statham’s character isn’t British, but he has a British accent because Statham has one and he can’t do accents and how Statham sounds is less important than how he looks (like a sexy golem in a ballcap) or how he kicks and punches (swiftly, awesomely, exactly). (Brandon Soderberg)