In a perfect world, every film would be as exciting as THE WORLD OF KANAKO. Tetsuya Nakashima’s bloody as all hell mystery is a genuine classic in the making, a film so deeply layered, that it’s impossible not to hold every other film of its kind to the impressive standard set by Nakashima’s tale of sex, drugs, death and parenting. Its ultra-violent, exploitation film-like tone sets it apart in every possible way, making it quite easily one of the most refreshing films in over a decade.
Following Akikazu (BABEL‘s Kôji Yakusho), an ex-detective whose search for his missing daughter Kanako leads him into hell on Earth, in the form of drugs, sex, prostitution, the Yakuza, corrupt policemen and the revelation that all things are not what they seem, THE WORLD OF KANAKO is something of a Japanese equivalent to the great George C. Scott-led film HARDCORE. We’re given such a deeply flawed protagonist, a man who’s not a hero by any means, on the contrary, a character who beats, threatens and does anything and everything in his power to find a daughter that he barely remembers. With every revelation the man finds, the film peels back such well written layers of a story that is not only entrancing on its own, but is executed with such style, that it feels like a brilliant hybrid of exploitation film greatness and a grand, epic story of loss and defeat, of murder and the fact that what we do will eventually come back to haunt us.
The closer Akikazu gets to finding his daughter, he’s faced time and time again with the question of whether he really wants or needs to know who she truly is, and if that person is someone he wants to find inside of his daughter. It’s such a brilliantly written film, and Yakusho’s performance as Akikazu is so off the wall that the character is surely going to be one for the books, a man hellbent on proving to himself that he’s a good father, even though it’s apparent from the first time we see him, that he’s not only a bad father, but a bad man in general. Even with that knowledge of himself, Akikazu is like a machine, with his sights set on bringing his daughter back from whatever she’s wrapped up in, and with every ounce of blood spilled across the streets, walls, and every other form of locale, THE WORLD OF KANAKO is able to pull you deeper inside of its Shakespearean tragedy of a story.
The Academy Award nominated Tetsuya Nakashima has such an eye for style and how to tell a story in a fast paced, multiple timeline-filled approach. As a viewer, it’s enthralling to witness the unfolding and unraveling of not only Yakusho’s Akikazu character, but that of the sweet and innocent looking character of Kanako. Nana Komatsu gives a great performance as the schoolgirl looking, yet completely manipulative Kanako, a performance that is so multidimensional that it makes us as viewers wonder how good or bad she is throughout the entire film. Whether it’s mourning the suicide of her former boyfriend or using a bullied, lovelorn teen to get her way and manipulate him to her own agenda, the character of Kanako is a very interesting one, a character that we learn has more than one side to her, and as a viewer, it’s an interesting journey to take, finding out who Kanako truly is, all within a drug-filled, violent world of raves and dirty old men, of schoolkids and policemen, all wanting to get closer to the character.
With its style, performances and a completely hypnotic story and execution, THE WORLD OF KANAKO is a film that has thrown its hat into the ring of perfect films, a movie that will be hard to top by any director this year. A fast paced, hyper-violent journey into the mind games of a schoolgirl with blood in her eyes and the father who has to find her. An absolutely entertaining experience, THE WORLD OF KANAKO is quite possibly the best mystery within the last decade. The bar has been set.