Friday, June 20, 2008

REVIEW: The Trap - Kaizo Hayashi (1996)

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

The third in Kaizo Hayashi's "Maiku Hama" trilogy of modern noirs (the previous two being "The Most Terrible Time In My Life" and "Stairway To The Distant Past") is the most visually interesting and likely best of the bunch. It may not be as fun as the first or as sharp in its themes as the second, but it has several factors that will allow it to easily hold up to repeated viewings.

Hama's Private Eye office is still above the old movie theatre (where you still have to pay admission even if you are only visiting him), he still drives his 50s style car and most of his surrounding cast of slightly eccentric friends and family are still around. But he's a more mature confident character now. Sure he still yells a lot, but he seems more deliberate in his thoughts and actions. He's also in love...The pretty young Yuriko is the object of his affections and though she is mute, they don't seem to have any issues communicating to each other as their relationship builds. There's a great throwaway scene when Maiku states he is in love and the film jumps to him driving his car spilling over with roses. That's one of several moments of playfulness in the film including a real fourth wall breaker near the end that gets a little bit, shall we say, "meta".

But overall, the film is much darker in tone than the preceding ones. Maiku gets framed for being the serial killer who is stalking young women, kidnapping them and leaving their dead bodies (fully made up and in pretty summer dresses) in public spaces. And even through a rather murky DVD, the lighting and colour palette of the film really help accentuate the feel of many scenes (all three films would be well served with new DVDs) - specifically some of the tunnel scenes, the use of shadows everywhere and the short dream sequence of the character Mikki. Without overdoing it, Hayashi also includes other techniques like split screens and image layering to help foreshadow and move the story ahead.

It almost devolves a bit towards the rather drawn out ending with some overly insane behaviour by a few characters, but I was left mulling those scenes over again in my mind...Given some of the dream like scenes and the dual role played by Masatoshi Nagase (Maiku/Mikki), the trap of the title may have more to do with Maiku himself than the frame-up. I'm hoping to piece it together with a second viewing.

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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