Director Sion Sono (“Love Exposure,” “Exte: Hair Extensions,” “Suicide Club”) keeps his reputation as one of Japan’s leading directors by exploring how one person can dominate many people just by force of personality. It’s insidious evil that leads to mass murder.
A fish shop owner is part of a typical mended family hybrid of husband/father, wife/stepmother, and teenage daughter. The daughter resents the stepmother and is rebellious. She gets caught shoplifting. The owner of a bigger better fish store named Amazon Gold intervenes, gets the daughter off, and even offers her a job with room and board. The charismatic owner named Murata (a great performance by Denden) spins a web of ingratiation and blackmail into assisting in murder.
Supposedly Murata has murdered around forty people and is based loosely on a real person. As disturbing as the grizzly body count are the levels of violating deceit. Murata seduces the wife, becomes hero-like to the daughter for getting her away from her family, and pushes the father into becoming business partners. This is mostly done with a smile and laugh but can turn deadly hostile on the turn of a dime. The slightest bit of weakness at suggestion turns into entrapment. Do as your told or your entire life will be ruined, your daughter the next victim, if you don’t help dispose of the body. Murata is an unsettling predator who can sniff out victims and moldable accomplices from a mile away. It’s force by charisma with abuse ready to pounce.
No punches are pulled in showing the disposal of bodies. They are literally sliced and chopped into little pieces. Flesh and muscle are thrown into a river as fish food. Bones are burned into ashes which are later scattered to the winds. Murata is gleeful the whole time perhaps even having quick sex with his girlfriend who malleably assists.
Every over-the-top action is underpinned by characters with psychological depth. Sono’s direction has only moments of flash, by and large letting actions and dialogue speak for themselves. He uses postings of date and time to drive suspense much like in “Love Exposure” (which I sincerely hope finds a U.S. release eventually.) “Cold Fish” is currently scheduled for release in 2011 by the newly created Sushi Typhoon through FUNimation DVDs.