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04.30.08

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Phaedra

Retribution

One disc; Lionsgate; $26.98

By Michael S. Gant


Director/writer Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) specializes in atmosphere over shock, and in Retribution he establishes a mood of eerie portent early on but never really delivers on his setup. Kji Yakusho plays Yoshioka, a troubled police detective faced with a string of murders in which the clues all point to him, even though he can't remember how or why. The plot moves from the realm of procedural to otherworldly when a ghost woman in a red dress begins to appear to the detective. In the best moment, this spirit accuser claws her way through his apartment wall during an earthquake. Yakusho's problems are compounded by his own troubled relationship with his girlfriend, but Kurosawa never really lets us get close enough to Yoshioka to understand the bottled-up emotions and traumas that are driving him. Somewhere around the halfway point, we are given clues about the ghost's restless need for revenge, but her connection after many years to the present-day victims is much too tenuous to register with any impact. A long, long, wordless, soundless, musicless sequence in the detective's apartment then renders the ending an anticlimax. The extras include an alternative ending that clarifies nothing, and some footage of the director and cast answering questions at a premiere screening.


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