Plotwise, this is a remake of Kurosawa's 1949 film, Stray Dog, with a cop losing his gun to a killer. But both movies are very much products of their time - in the original's case, an occupied, barely post-war country, while the remake came out soon after Aum's nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway. [In one largely baffling element, a jeep, loaded with men in decontamination suits, roams the city, apparently carrying out executions] It's while chasing the assassin of a cult leader that Detective Sosuke (Ishibashi) is shot down; as his partner continues the chase, someone wearing wooden clogs swipes Sosuke's weapon. Coerced into resigning from the force, when dead bodies attributable to his gun start appearing, he becomes obsessed with finding the thief.
It's a curiously Japanese concept, that could only make sense in a country where taking a gun from an unconscious policeman is the best way to get your hands on one - rather than, say, Wal-mart. But it's really more of a love-story than anything else: Sosuke abandons his wife for his work, but when his work abandons him, he finds his wife gone too, and sets out to win her back. However, as with much of Aoyama's work, he doesn't really seem to like his characters all that much, preferring to keep a distance from them emotionally - and, most obviously at the climax, cinematically. While I can't knock Ishibashi, who delivers another fine performance, I rarely felt like I cared much, which seems to be my feeling with all of Aoyama's work I've seen so far. He's a solid film-maker, and I can see how people could appreciate his work. Unfortunately, I still don't count myself among their number.
[This film is released on October 25th in the US; the DVD also includes a commentary by Jasper Sharp and an interview with the director. For more information, visit ArtsMagic's website.]