Sunday, April 17, 2011

REVIEW: The Incite Mill

インシテミル 7日間のデス・ゲーム (Inshite Miru: 7-kakan no desu gemu)

Released: 2010

Hideo Nakata

Tatsuya Fujiwara
Haruka Ayase
Aya Hirayama
Shinji Takeda
Satomi Ishihara

Running time: 107 mins.

Reviewed by David Lam

On paper, “The Incite Mill” makes for an intriguing movie. A group of strangers from all walks of life are brought together after hearing about a job opportunity with a mysterious corporation that will pay 112,000 Yen ($1,236 USD) per hour. These strangers are all placed in a mansion in a remote area and are monitored 24/7 by surveillance cameras. Each person is assigned to separate rooms with a specific apparatus that may or may not be used for murder. The rules are simple, no one is allowed to leave the premise for 7 days, each contestant has to return to their room by 10PM and finally, the whole ordeal will end when there are only two participants standing. What? That’s right, before night fall, someone will be murdered and we are told that all of the participants involved in the crime will be financially rewarded. The person that solves the crime will receive a handsome payout, as well as the victim (the money will go to their family) and perpetrator. Now how’s that for a premise? It’s equal parts taut psychological thriller and murder mystery. It’s Agatha Christie meets “Panic Room”. It’s a great idea that should make for an exhilarating watch. That would be the case if the writing and execution weren’t so laughably bad. Just how bad? The security system that’s in place is a ridiculous 80s looking robot that scales the ceiling of the mansion and mows down anybody that’s loitering around the hallway after 10PM with its machine gun appendages. That’s how bad.

In an ensemble like “The Incite Mill”, the dramatic tension hinges on the dynamic between each character. Instead of concentrating on the interaction between each character and how they react to one another and their new environment, the film goes for cheap thrills by introducing one grisly murder after another without any real motive or consequence. Basically a murder occurs, characters convene to deliberate, the perpetrator is caught, hysteria takes over, repeat. And that’s it for 107min. It’s almost unfair to discuss the lack of interesting characters in this movie because it seems that they solely exist for the audience to watch them inevitably meet their demise. Instead of characters, each one is more of an archetype. You have the dangerous criminal, the unassuming girl next door, the arrogant jerk, the rich old man that knows more than he’s letting on, the annoying couple and Tatsuya Fujiwara being Tatsuya Fujiwara. With these cardboard cut-outs, it’s hard to muster up any emotional attachment for anybody one screen. Worst of all, for a movie that’s centered on some sort of psychological evaluation, it surprisingly has very little to say about the complexities of human nature. The profound conclusion it comes to is that we’re all capable of doing heinous things when greed is the driving force.

The biggest surprise of the movie comes from the fact that it was directed by Hideo Nakata. Nakata has proven to be quite the innovative filmmaker in the past. It’s hard to fathom that the director of such captivating films such as “The Ring” and “Chaos” could be responsible for a dud like “The Incite Mill”. The chilling atmosphere that permeated his earlier movies is nowhere to be found here. It used to be that Nakata would come up with inventive ways to provoke the viewer, now he’s just intent on trotting out poorly rendered CGI effects to dress up vapid filmmaking. Even his more commercial work like “Kaidan” and “Death Note” showed more visual flare and better command of storytelling.

While watching “The Incite Mill” I often found myself thinking about another movie, “Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler” (2009). Both films share a similar premise and even a leading man in Fujiwara. And as ridiculous as “Kaiji” was, it still managed to be wildly entertaining to watch. There was an audacity to the filmmaking and somehow Fujiwara’s over the top style of acting added to the overall outrageousness of it. I wished Nakata could have taken a page from “Kaiji” by injecting some energy to the movie. Too often, “The Incite Mill” is caught up with its own relevance. It tries too hard to convince the audience that there’s a profundity to what they’re watching. And unfortunately, the movie ends up being not very insightful or entertaining to watch.

Read more by David Lam at his blog

1 comment:

rex baylon said...

great review. I wholeheartedly agree with your asessment of Nakata's film.