In Japan and in film festivals across the world, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa draws in both critics and crowds. Cure is one of his earlier films (released in Japan in 1997) and is finally getting domestic release. Kurosawa (not related to that other guy) does show a distinctive style, creating a moody, brooding noirish story with supernatural overtones, a little too brooding at times for its own good. He takes the time to have his characters carefully study the various aspects of each crime, but the two hour running length is a bit long.

Ken-ichi Takabe (Koji Yakusho, Seance, Eureka) is a detective investigating a series of mysterious murders. In each case, the victim has a large "X" cut over the carotid artery. The murderer is at each site, and does not remember why he/she killed the victim. The murderers also seem evasive and confused. None of them has any apparent connections to each other. At the same time, Kurosawa (Pulse, Barren Illusions) cuts to Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara, Many Happy Returns), a man suffering from amnesia. He has no memory of his name or any other pertinent details, and is more likely to question the people who are trying to help him. What Takabe does not realize is that each person Mamiya encounters ends up as one of his suspects.

Cure works when Kurosawa is trying to establish a mood. Many of the scenes are dark, lending an ominous feeling. Mamiya frequently speaks from the shadows. At the same time, Takabe has no clue how to proceed. Each additional murder increases his tension. Kurosawa has events move slowly, but he does manage to build tension with each attack. Yakusho is good as Takabe. He is trying to juggle his career and his sick wife, and the strain is building. Hagiwara's character is a little frustrating. For reasons central to the resolution of the movie, his ability of deflecting questions never arouses suspicions. Once Takabe realizes that Mamiya is the key to answering his questions, Cure bogs itself down in unnecessary plot. It's as if Kurosawa is writing a Japanese version of The X-files. He gives the viewer a lot of background information to digest, then goes nowhere with it. It is a classic case of the ending not living up to the rest of the movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 2 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains language and violence, and easy R.

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