It's one of Takashi Miike's less well-regarded films. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
The storyline isn't anything unusual, being more or less what the title suggests. Someone's killing women. We can assume this isn't going to be pretty, this being a Takashi Miike film, and this is confirmed by an artist with working methods reminiscent of Guinea Pig 6: Mermaid in a Manhole
. After him we meet a peeping tom, whose surveillance equipment is capturing images of naked women. These are bad guys.
The good guys though are eccentric, to put it generously. Our hero (Kazuya Nakayama) is terrible at his job, not noticing when people around him have important information, while his staff are all mad. At first I merely thought they were mildly rude and/or socially dysfunctional, but no. They're bonkers. The reason they've ended up with Nakayama is presumably because no one else would hire them, although the receptionist is cute. Anyway, we first meet our hero as he finds he has a new neighbour, Claude Maki, and immediately makes himself look a bit weird. Their characters have the same name, which for Nakayama is a conversation starter and for Maki is a cause for regret. Nakayama has soon invited himself around for a housewarming drink (which lasts well into the small hours), whereupon Maki is soon deciding to move away again as soon as possible, explaining this with the claim that moving is his hobby.
Nakayama is likeable and fun. He's presumptuous, funny and cocky in a way that reminded me of Bollywood. His face looks more Indian than Japanese and he's got the same offbeat charm. Maki on the other hand is a regular guy who works with computers and has not the slightest interest in hanging out with a weirdo who lacks social graces and hunts murderers.
This two are a double act. I've seen this film described as a comedy and they'd be the main reason for that. Admittedly Nakayama only drags in Maki from time to time, but that's good because it keeps their relationship fresh.
So that's the storyline. There's a Silence of the Lambs scene in which Nakayama consults a completely different killer he caught fifteen years earlier, but by and large the plot's what you're expecting. By all rights this should be pretty bog standard, of the kind that Japan (and indeed pretty much all other countries in the world) are never going to stop churning out. Looking at other reviewers' comments on this film, I'm seeing phrases like "throwaway, yes, but not outright bad", "cheap and rushed" and "entertaining but utterly disposable". Personally though I liked it much more than it perhaps deserved, the reason of course being Miike. I don't think I'll ever stop being surprised by him. He puts so much energy into his films that you never know if he's not about to make something out of nothing and turn a normal scene into something richer or edgier than it deserves.
Look at an early sequence where Nakayama's getting dressed, for instance. That's all that happens. Nakayama puts on clothes. This should be cinematic dead air. Miike though decides to throw in music, an ever-shifting camera and a bare arse, just because he feels like it. Look at the cameo from that old philandering couple by the lift. Or alternatively, look at the slightly jarring micro-edits in that interrogation scene, of a kind every film school in the world would be screaming Do Not Do This.
I've found an interesting quote about Miike, incidentally. It's from the afterword to Tom Mes's critical study Agitator and it's written by another filmmaker, Shinya Tsukamoto:
"Many actors hope to one day participate in a Takashi Miike film. Especially guys. They want to go back to being naughty boys and go wild. Miike lets them indulge themselves in this fantasy freely and knows exactly how to provoke them. And once provoked, the actors bombard each other with their energy, lifting the film up and spinning it off into higher orbit."
I really think Miike's one of the best directors in the world, judging in terms of how far he can raise his material. I find it possible to be mesmerised by Miike films, for no reason except the fact that it's Miike. There's no way of knowing how far he'll go. This isn't one of his mesmerisers, but it's still sparky, funny and has a wilder ending than you'd expect. The movie's last line in particular is ridiculous.
As always though, Miike's not just into empty shocks. He's interested in emotional and thematic depth as well. This film I think is about inappropriate behaviour, with characters who either straddle the boundaries or topple over the edge. You've got the social transgressions of Nakayama and his staff, particularly in their early scenes when you're still thinking of them as merely brasher and more colourful than they needed to be. Their manner towards potential customers in particular isn't the best. The film blurs the line between detective and criminal, especially in Nakayama's Silence of the Lambs scenes. "You're one of us."
This film perhaps suffers a tad from formulaic plotting and even I couldn't call it special, but I was more than satisfied with it. It's Miike being Miike. I just love seeing what he does with cinema. I referred to a Silence of the Lambs scene, for instance, but that throwaway description doesn't mention the leather Cyberman mask, the maggots and the talk of children. (It's not really a Cyberman, but that's what it reminded me of.) I don't think I've yet been disappointed by Miike. More, I need more.
"Like me, she was beautiful and wonderful."