Key of Life

Key of Life

Key of Life

directed by Kenji Uchida

starring Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryôko Hirosue

The KlokWorks / Film Movement

Ah those wacky Japanese actors! The only thing Sakuari (Masato Sakai) does worse than act is attempt suicide; he simple falls off a chair and pull the lamp wires out of the ceiling. Nearly broke, he decides to visit the bathhouse to figure out “what next?” Legendary hit man Kondo (Teruyuki Kagawa) visits as well, he’s there to clean up after his latest job. Kondo slips on some soap, knocks himself out and Sakuari swaps locker keys with him. How could his life be any worse? When Kondo wakes from amnesia, he returns to Sakuari’s place and meets a young woman (Ryôko Hirosue) who has vowed to marry in two months: all she needs is a suitable man. As Sakuari bluffs though on-the-job hit man training, Kondo and the woman fall in love and all three lives intertwine.

Yeah, I said “intertwine” but anything else beyond that would be a major spoiler, this is one of the most complicated and well-constructed movies I’ve seen in years. Nothing is as it seems, everyone achieves personal and professional growth, there’s cliff hanger happy-ever-after ending and, well, gosh, it’s simply a great movie. Sakai over acts, but he does it so well and with so much charm you have to love him like a lop-eared puppy. Hirosue is charming as well, she’s very serious and not exactly in love with being in love, but rather she’s a hard worker out for a corporate merger that will strengthen her market position. She’s also a cutie, but never seems to notice. But it’s Kagawa who sells this film, he’s slick and brutal and a total sham with the acting skills that Sakai could only dream of.

With Japanese subtitles you have to pay attention, but you rarely get bored and the switches in the plot are sudden, unexpected, and perfectly plausible. There’s never anything gratuitous, and like all good foreign films you see into another culture while totally identifying with everyone on screen. This might be my favorite foreign film of the year; I’ll let you know later.

www.filmmovement.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Alonso Ruizpalacios
    Alonso Ruizpalacios

    Generoso speaks with director Alonso Ruizpalacios, whose dynamic new feature, A Cop Movie, utilizes a unique and effective hybrid documentary style to examine police corruption in and around Mexico City. A Cop Movie was the winner of the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival.

  • Sarah McQuaid
    Sarah McQuaid

    The St. Buryan Sessions (Shovel and a Spade Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Hearty Har
    Hearty Har

    Radio Astro (BMG). Review by Julius C. Lacking.

  • Junkwraith
    Junkwraith

    A young woman abandons a promising skating career only to be chased by her inner demons.

  • The Slackers / Sic & Mad
    The Slackers / Sic & Mad

    Love I Bring /Cat Prozac (Split 7 inch single on). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

    An adaptation of a classic horror story safe for little eyes.

  • Nosferatu
    Nosferatu

    A classic horror tale ends up some place weird.

  • Self Taught
    Self Taught

    Over a ten-year period, punk guitar legend Tim Kerr and his wife Beth used thrift store cameras to document self-taught artists environments. Combined with portraits of the creators, Self Taught is a celebration of artistic spirit.

  • New Music Now 002
    New Music Now 002

    In NMN Episode Two, Ink 19’s Pat Greene picks the soothing, balm-like brain of old friend Matt Gorney (The Civic Minded Five, Jazz in the Bible Belt on WPRK, 91.5 FM, Winter Park, Florida) as the two discuss the album Promises, from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

  • Fun Home
    Fun Home

    A small town funeral director hides a not-so-big secret.

From the Archives