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Villain (Akunin) 
Written by: on December 21st, 2011

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2011
Director: Lee Sang-il
Shuichi Yoshida, Lee Sang-il
Satoshi Tsumabuki, Eri Fukatsu, Masaki Okada, Hikari Mitsushima, Kirin Kiki

DVD released: December 5th, 2011
Approximate running time: 140 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Third Window Films
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £9.34

Synopsis: Tired of his boring life a young man named Yuichi meets a young woman on a online dating website. And what appears on the surface to be the fix that he needed to relieve him of loneliness, quickly turns deadly when the young woman humiliates him and leaves with another man.

Though the opening setup in which a young woman’s body is found strangled on a remote road in the countryside sets up what is to follow. The film quickly becomes less about the events of that night and more of character study that revolves around a troubled young man named Yuichi, who is responsible for her death. And while on the surface he may appear to be the ‘villain’ of the story, there are actually a few characters who are more deserving of the ‘villain’ title, most notably the arrogant young man named Keijo that the murder young woman ran off with the night she was supposed to be with Yuichi.

Also where most films just use secondary characters to further serve the plot, this is not the case with Villain which makes each character as compelling and well defined as its protagonist Yuichi. With the moments where each one of them reflecting on the young woman’s death and how the choices that they made played a role in her death, being the some of this films strongest moments.

Besides the aforementioned plot a young woman’s killer being on the run, this film does feature another main plot that revolves around another young woman named Mitsuyo and Yuichi, who grow closer despite it becoming more and more apparent that this is not going to end well.

Narrative wise, the plot is told in a non linear way that uses numerous flashback to fill in, who everyone is and what their motivations are? Every character in this film is clearly defined, making their choices all the more convincing, there are no grey areas here.

Pacing wise the film does a good job maintaining its momentum after the initial setup in which the young woman is murdered. And while this slow going opening setup may put some viewers off, it is a necessary evil, since what comes afterward is well worth the wait and then some.

From a production stand point there is really no area in which this film is lacking, it was after all nominated for fifteen Japanese academy awards (winning five). One for this film’s mesmerizing score which was composed by Joe Hisaishi (Sonatine, Brother) and the other four of the Japanese academy awards that this film won coming from its superb cast, who are all utterly convincing in their respective roles. Ultimately Villain a extraordinary film about the human condition that will linger in your mind long after its conclusion has faded off the screen.

The DVD:

Third Window Films presents Villain in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, black levels generally fare well, though they do leave room for improvement, contrast levels look consistently good, details look crisp throughout and there are no problems with compression.

This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included. Though this is a character driven film and the majority of the scenes rely on not much more then the dialog being spoken and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. This is a surprisingly strong audio mix that takes full advantage of the whole sound spectrum and it sounds robust when it needs too.

Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 26 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), a conversation between co-screenwriter / director Lee Sang-il and actor Satoshi Tsumabuki, who portray this film’s protagonist (23 minutes 27 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a lengthy ‘Making of’ documentary (61 minutes 51 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) that includes comments from the cast and crew, who discuss why scenes where cut, the source novel that inspired the film, the visual look of the film, editing, the film’s controversial flashback sequence and various other production related topics. The ‘Making of’ documentary also contains a wealth of onset /location footage. Topics covered in the conversation with Lee Sang-il and actor Satoshi Tsumabuki include how grueling this production was to make and they also discuss all the main characters in this film and the actors that portrayed them. Rounding out the extras for this release is web exclusive content that can be viewed via a weblink option in the extras. Overall Villain gets a first rate DVD release from Third Window Films.

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