Made as part of the DUEL project along with Ryuhei Kitamura‘s experimental samurai film "ARAGAMI", the famed project had certain limiting rules that applied to both films:
1) Both films will only be shot, edited, in a measly 7 days, under a very small budget.
2) Both films would be limited to an enclosed space with a limited running time--one room, one setting.
3) There will be a Limit of three major characters. (onscreen)
4) One character has to die.
The "Duel Project" is one hyped about concept, which began with Yukihiko Tsutsumi and Ryuhei Kitamura making a bet as to which of them would make a superior film with such limiting conditions. Kitamura made the supernatural-fantasy jidai geki film and Tsutsumi created a surreal comic-melodrama about two wanna-be actresses. I loved both films equally, but there is just something so sexy when two hot women go at it. Tsutsumi's "2LDK" is one bizarre and odd ride as it takes a look at two gorgeous women's thoughts, pride and insecurities which leads to an incident outrageously insane and comical.
Nozomi (Eiko Koike) and Rana (Maho Nonami) are two women, renting an apartment with two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a dining room (defines the title "2LDK"). As with most roommates struggling to make ends meet, they have their petty squabbles and differences. Now things have become a little more complicated as they compete for the affections of the same man and they auditioned for the same part in a movie. Pride and jealousy become the driving force for the emotional rivalry as they are poised for all-out war; they break out the power tools, a katana, and electrical devices to fight each other to the death. These two ladies may have just forfeited their security deposit.
Tsutsumi's film begins innocently enough, as the first act displays our two protagonist's mannerisms, habits and character. Nozomi labels whatever she buys for the apartment with her initials, has this sort of an organized personality. Rana is more carefree, fashionable and even scans the kind of clothes Nozomi wears. These sequences prove to be the film's more imaginative and inspiring moments, as the audience becomes privy to the two women's innermost thoughts even without them saying anything. They eat and make small talk, and the developing tension between the two begin to grow madly out of control. A spark, a nudge is all that is needed for the two to reach a critical boiling point. Female egos and competitive nature are brought into exposition.
The second act is darkly comedic and evenly dramatic as the two engages in a heated fight. The two resort to very violent behavior as they use ordinary household materials in their furious "cat fight". The screenplay certainly uses its one location very well and utilizes its limitations naturally. Whoever owned the apartment is one odd individual, I can see a katana and a sai hanging in the wall, but there's also a chainsaw. I guess it is a way to develop its surroundings by giving it a small personality through its landlord.
The action is ultra-violent as they cut, beat, stab, and uses even shampoo (?) to induce pain, a truly vicious and lengthy confrontation is the film‘s main showstopper. Some scenes become too outrageously over-the-top that the film abandons all realism. One should be dead or seriously unconscious even after the first pummeling, but the two survive, and lives to fight on. I became a little lost after I saw the electrocution scene, but I suppose all the outrageous action is meant to be comical and black. I was quite curious as to how and why neither women can take full advantage, as the fight happens in an orderly manner. Nozomi gets the advantage and knocks Rana unconscious, then Rana regains her wits and she gets the advantage--they take turns beating the tar out of each other; with their attempts always coming up a little short for some baffling reason. It is all dramatically comedic in a way to blend it with the absurdity of the action. The action and the use of simple household weaponry would make Sam Raimi green with envy. Where is Bruce Campbell when you need him?
The direction is quite simple but there are times that I thought that Tsutsumi should have done away with the occasional "shaky cam" when he filmed some fight sequences. The fight itself was real fun to watch, but it does overstay its welcome after awhile because of its length. There were times that I felt that Tsutsumi wanted to display more violence then originally intended, which resulted the film becoming a little stretched. The acting is good for the most part and our two hot Japanese women does manage to form a certain chemistry.
I would almost say that "Aragami" and "2LDK" are almost a draw; both are films which are definitely innovative, have their distinct traits and earned serious points for being this great for a film made in seven days. I appreciated Kitamura's film a little more because it managed to be more solid in what it wanted to accomplish, had better production values, style and that it was better paced. "2LDK", however, is a little more somber and grittier, and definitely more outrageously "out there" and impulsive than Kitamura‘s flashy sword fight.
Highly Recommended! [4+ Stars]
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