I am not sure, but seems like filmmakers are indeed trying to capitalize on the popularity of comic books and in Japan, manga seems to be getting a lot of focus these days ever since the successful adaptations of “Death Note” and “Azumi”. I guess it was only a matter of time before Kazuo Umezu’s ultra-violent horror manga “Kami no Hidarite, Akuma no Migite” would be adapted into a film. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko, the film “God’s Left Hand, Devil’s Right Hand” (2006) feels aimed for the manga’s established fan base and there are no doubts in my mind that it may please fans of the manga. There are homage scenes that can satisfy the fan, but unfortunately, for someone who doesn’t have any background to the source material, it may be seen as a little lazy and rushed.
A young boy named Sou (Tsubasa Kobayashi) has the ability to dream and predict the evil intentions of men. Sou’s ability has been kept in secret with only his older sister, Izumi (Asuka Shibuya) who shares this knowledge. When Sou becomes incapacitated by a dream, his sister must find a way to find a girl imprisoned in a house. This girl in reality is named Momo (Momoko Shimizu) and is being read tons of picture books by his father (Tomorowo Taguchi). Now Izumi must face the reality of such a dream; aided by Yoshiko (Ai Maeda), they risk their lives to get to the bottom of the mystery of Sou’s dreams…
Please keep in mind that Kaneko actually took over the direction after his mentor Hiroyuki Nasu had passed on. This would explain the film’s incoherent execution on some areas and why the film feels rather episodic. This is no excuse however, a director needs to pay special attention to the task at hand, even if it meant re-writing the whole thing. Perhaps parts of the film directed by Nasu were incorporated into the final product to show his respect, but we’d never know.
“God’s Left Hand, Devil’s Right Hand” feels like a psychological thriller in the beginning with some areas that go into the supernatural. Then it seems wrapped around the elements of a slasher flick. The film feels rather surreal, and I have to say the film does have some moments of gore and violence that can charm the B-horror movie fan. Prosthetics are used, the usual arterial spray were occasional utilized, and some scenes had a lot of potential in adding visceral impact to the film. One may say that it was easy to like some scenes in the film as they stood alone; after all, a father who feeds his daughter horror tales is downright freaky, violence against kids always touches a nerve with me and there is an unnerving scene that would be a classic if used dramatically. I know part of the movie’s charm is its ability to look like a cheap B-movie, so you’ll get no complaints about it here.
I guess after “Death Note” I was expecting Kaneko to come out with a more solid project than this movie. I know the film is trying to cover as many things as possible (the manga was a long-revolving series) but it relied too much on fans to connect the dots. I feel that the script needed to be more focused; many details and devices were very sketchy and too many were left into assumptions. Plot holes are rampant in the film and it really bothered me. People come and go at their own accord, and the way they were introduced into the screenplay felt real cheap. I also didn’t exactly like the fact that some characters had no ‘charm’, sure they were lookers (one of them was sexy Reon Kadena) but I found that they were just too dumb to be kept alive.
The acting was also very uneven, and the mystery solving didn’t take spotlight as I could’ve hoped. To its credit, Shibuya and Maeda do make a cute pair of detectives. They were very easy on the eyes, despite their limited opportunity to show off their acting abilities. Tomorowo Taguchi’s performance is very unbalanced. He does exude that creepy personality, but there were a lot of times that he seemed to try too hard. The direction was also a bit heavy on several scenes; Kaneko seemed to deliberately show off the fact that mannequins and prosthetics were used in the film’s effects. It looked rather silly and I had issues trying to convince myself that he wanted to make it seem like a low-budget horror movie.
I do like surreal horror films, and honestly, I am no film snob. I like low-budget movies as long as the story and direction are competent; Kaneko truly disappointed me this time out. It feels like the filmmakers wanted to make a statement about child abuse, but it didn’t turn out that way. It feels more like an exploitive horror flick that went down a slippery slope. It tried to cover too much and it ended up being a nonsensical film. There is something good laying around this film, but sadly it just couldn’t make it to the surface.
RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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