Japanese superstars' crime drama needs stronger edit

In Killing For The Prosecution, Takuya Kimura (far left) and Kazunari Ninomiya (left) play prosecutors who work together on a murder case.
In Killing For The Prosecution, Takuya Kimura (left) and Kazunari Ninomiya (right) play prosecutors who work together on a murder case.PHOTO: ENCORE FILMS

REVIEW / MYSTERY DRAMA

KILLING FOR THE PROSECUTION (PG13)

123 minutes/Opens today/ 3 stars

The story: Public prosecutor Mogami (Takuya Kimura) is a charismatic lecturer who leaves an impression on the idealistic Okino (Kazunari Ninomiya) and later becomes his boss. They work together on a murder case, where a person of interest was the prime suspect in a prior murder for which the statute of limitations has lapsed. Mogami is deeply invested in the current investigation because of his personal history, setting mentor and mentee on a collision course. Adapted from Shusuke Shizukui's 2013 novel of the same name.

One of Japanese actor-singer Takuya Kimura's best-known roles is as maverick public prosecutor Kuryu Kohei in Hero. The 2001 television series was the top-rated Japanese show in 25 years and spun off a 2006 mini-series, a second season in 2014 and a movie in 2015.

The evergreen idol subverts that with a morally greyer role here. As someone who is supposed to uphold the law, how far will Mogami go to correct the perversion of justice in an old case?

Facing off against him is fellow actor-singer Kazunari Ninomiya (Letters From Iwo Jima, 2006) and Killing For The Prosecution has been billed as the first time the Japanese superstars are collaborating in film.

Director Masato Harada (Bounce Ko Gals, 1997) charts the changing relationship between the two men as Okino goes from obedient junior to questioning his mentor's biases.

Some of it is laid on a bit thickly though, particularly in the final meeting between them.

The crime procedural part of the movie is competent enough, though the questions raised about justice and the law are none too subtle.

When Mogami warns in a lecture at the beginning that a prosecutor who obsesses over his own brand of justice is a criminal, the foreshadowing is all too clear.

There are side plots about corruption involving Mogami's politician friend, Mogami's grandfather's memoir of being a soldier in the infamous Battle of Imphal in India, and a legal clerk, Saho (Yuriko Yoshitaka), who nudges Okino along on his awakening, but has secrets of her own.

It feels as though Harada, who also wrote the script, took a kitchen-sink approach to adapting the novel when a more merciless edit might have made for a stronger film.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2018, with the headline 'Japanese superstars' crime drama needs stronger edit'. Print Edition | Subscribe