Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 16th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2012
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Takashi Miike, Yusuke Kishi (Novel)
Cast: Hideaki Ito, Fumi Nikaido, Shota Sometani, Kento Hayashi, Kodai Asaka, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Takayuki Yamada
BluRay released: September 29th, 2014
Approximate running time: 129 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese
BluRay Release: Third Window Films
Region Coding: Region B (UK)
Retail Price: £13.99
Lesson of Evil was directed by Takashi Miike, whose other notable films include, The Audition and Ichi the Killer. The screenplay for Lesson of Evil was adapted from Yûsuke Kishi’s (The Black House) novel titled Lesson of the Evil.
This film opens with a sinister teaser that hints of a much darker subject matter that is yet to come. During this moment we are introduced to this films protagonist a psychiopath named Seiji Hasumi, who has just discovered that his parents know of his murderous ways. It is also during this opening moment that the film introduces the song ‘Mack the Knife’ aka ‘The Threepenny Opera’. This song kind of serves as a theme song for this film’s protagonist. And though there is implications that Seiji killed his parents the film cuts away and flash forward to the present day without showing the act. This lack of blood-soaked carnage is in line with the lighter tone that dominates the first half of the film.
After a brief prolog, the film then shifts towards Seiji’s life as a teacher and the next hour of so is spent following the ins and outs of high school life. Things like students cheating and teachers trying to come up with to stop them from cheating. In fact it is one of Seiji’s own ideas to prevent cheating on tests that proves to be most successful during his rampage through the school during prom. Other things that are at forefront during the first half of this film include bullying and improper conduct between teachers and students.
Content wise, the film starts off as though it is high school melodrama that looks like countless other similar depictions of the same subject matter. And things don’t really come together until the moment Seiji is forced to show his true colors due to another teacher digging into his past. This event serves as a trigger that sets in motion an elaborate plan to kill everyone at the prom and doing in such a way that it frames another teacher that is having a homosexual relationship.
And when it comes to the deception of violence this film is in your face and at times gruesome. With that being said, no matter how gory the bloodletting gets there is still an artistry to the way that the violence is depicted screen. Without a doubt the most surprising aspect of this film is how it manages to infuse some genuinely humorous moment in the midst of all of the mayhem.
Performances wise, it is the performance of its leading man Hideaki Itô (The Princess Blade) in the role of Seiji. His gives a chilling performance that is utterly convincing. His character is equally charming when it comes to the female students and cold hearted when it comes to anyone who get in the way of him completing his killing spree. His most memorable moment is a scene where he has cornered a group of students on the top of a stairwell and when one comes forward when they recognize him he tells them to stop where they are and then proceeds to cover his nice clothes with a raincoat. Thus ensuring that the blood does not end up on him. Considering their limited screen time and lack of character development, the rest of the cast all far exceed expectations with their performances.
At just over two hours there are a few peaks and valleys along the way. Fortunately there is never dull moment in this film as Miike puts his unique spin on even the most mundane moment. And in the hands of lessor filmmaker, the tongue and cheek humor which anchors this film would not have had the same impact. Ultimately Lesson of Evil is a satisfying mix of mayhem and dark humor that make for a highly entertaining film that fans of Miike are sure to thoroughly enjoy.
Lesson of Evil comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. There are no issues with DNR or compression, colors and flesh look accurate, black and contrast levels look solid throughout and details look sharp.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD 5.1 Japanese and removable English subtitles have been provided with this release. Dialog always sounds clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. Also this audio mix exhibits a tremendous amount of range throughout.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 51 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a lengthy ‘Making of’ documentary (120 minutes 10 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) with comments from the cast & crew and on set / behind the scenes footage. This documentary is essentially a production diary that covers the film from the beginning to the end of its production. Overall Lesson of Evil gets an exceptional release from Third Window Films, highly recommended.
Note: This film is also available from Third Window Films on DVD.