Punctuated with kind of casual bursts of grim violence which will be familiar to anyone versed in Asian extreme cinema, The World of Kanako is a mixed bag of cinematic influences and styles. With opening titles that wouldn’t look out of place in a low-rent 1960s US action TV show, what initially starts out as a ferocious, full-throttle variation on Taken, transmutes into that haunted path of discovery trodden in Oldboy. This is personified by the tour de force performance from popular Japanese actor Kōji Yakusho (star of Takashi Miike’s13 Assassins), whose increasingly bedraggled and destructive search mirrors Choi Min-sik’s similarly doomed quest from the 2003 South Korean masterpiece.
He’s by far the strongest element in this jittery, genre-hopping disappointment. Opening with a grubby triple homicide, we’re thrust into the unpleasant world of Akihiro Fujishima (Yakusho), a former detective estranged from his unfaithful wife and with more than a few indiscretions of his own. When his beloved daughter Kanako (Nana Komatsu) goes missing, he’s forced to delve deep in to the criminal underworld, fighting off sub-yakuza heavies and finding his efforts being stymied by a laughingly corrupt police force.
It also becomes pretty apparent that the daughter he held in such high esteem is far from the innocent and virginal creature he once thought her to be, and she could ultimately be the agent of his own pitiful fall from grace. The film’s bold and fractured editing style slams back and forth in time, occasionally conjuring up some thrilling transitions (one particularly satisfying ellipses follows Akihiro as he swigs from a beer in a glass to finishing one in a can, in one smooth motion) but that frenetic nature often gets in the way of the storytelling, instead of aiding it.
One moment we’re bouncing around a Day-Glo teen drug-taking sequence, the next we’re being lulled by a submissive and introspective moment of animation. It’s exasperating stuff and the film’s joyless brand of nihilism also grows increasingly grating as time goes on. It’s left to the sweaty, deranged presence of Yakusho to hold the attention and keeps things afloat dramatically, however objectionable the actions of his character are. For all its promise of a fun transgressive thrill ride, it turns out that The World of Kanako
is a dreary place to visit.
Adam Lowes | @adlow76