Retribution – DVD Review

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American and Japanese film-making have influenced each other in so many different ways its astounding. It seems that every decade or so that some new trend from either side of the Pacific Ocean makes its way into films of both countries. A cottage industry has been made out of remaking and ripping off Japanese horror flicks in the last decade or so, as the genre has found a new audience in Americans willing to watch remakes as well as seek out the originals. With the advent of the DVD, the ability of American audiences to seek out alternatives has become much faster than ever before. New trends in foreign films are seen much easier and quicker. Akira Kurosawa had to wait decades for his films to come to American audiences en masse. Kiyoshi Kurosawa hasn’t had to wait nearly as long, seeing one of his films remade for American audiences (Pulse) and has had a number already released onto DVD. His latest, Retribution, finds itself to American audiences.

Retribution combines a detective style film in a J-horror style film about ghosts. Yoshioka (Koji Yakusho) is a detective facing down a serial killer. With several clues popping up that implicate him, and the other murders pointing to other people, he’s left as the only viable suspect for a crime he doesn’t remember committing. Haunting him as well is a ghost in a red dress that he doesn’t know and doesn’t remember.

It’s an interesting take on the genre, as Kurosawa combines a lot of the elements of a noir piece with the conventions of a horror film, but it doesn’t mesh as well as it should. Trying to combine a tale about ghosts with a detective setting doesn’t work as much as it should as Kurosawa emphasizes the police aspect much more than the horror part for a large chunk of the film’s running time and it doesn’t work. It’s not a tight story to begin with, as the film’s conclusion is pretty evident early on, and there’s nothing to keep the film interesting as it goes on. When it hits its awkward conclusion, it’s a sense of relief.

Retribution will probably end up being remade in a couple years for American audiences. As it is, it’d be a signal that the trend of decent J-horror remakes is at end.

Presented in a Dolby Digital format with a widescreen format, the DVD transfer is flawless. The film is dark and murky for the most part, with some bright and vibrant colors in certain parts, and it all comes through cleanly and clearly. The audio, while unspectacular in actuality, comes through solidly as well.

Alternate Ending , which has its own Making of featurette about it, is presented in unfinished form and raw in terms of its finish. It’s not truly an alternate ending as opposed to more of an extended one, as the “alternate” is more of the logical extension of what happens at the film’s finale as opposed to being something you would project would happen.

On Opening Day – Exclusive Question and Answer session with the filmmakers is an abbreviated cut of a Q & A session the cast and director had with a paying audience. Nothing of note is really said, as the piece is carefully cut to be nothing more than an EPK.

Also from Lionsgate are previews for the American version of The Eye, FEARnet.com and the Japanese versions of The Eye 2, Ju-On, Ju-On 2, Premonition and American b-movie Werewolf Hunter.

As the films that inspired the J-Horror remake craze in America keep coming over, the ones that haven’t been done yet are finding their way into American homes just as easily. That’s not necessarily a good thing, though. Recommendation to avoid unless you’re a large fan of the genre.

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MGM presents Retribution. Written and Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Starring Koji Yakusho, Manami Konishi, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Riona Hazuki. Running time: 108 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: April 15, 2008.

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