Director: Shion Sono
Writers: Shion Sono and Yoshiki Takahashi
Cast: Makoto Ashikawa, Denden and Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Rated: Unrated (violence, gore, sexuality)
aka Tsumetai nettaigyo
My first exposure to director Shion Sono was with 2001′s Suicide Club which I enjoyed very much. Cold Fish follows a similar style as a dark and stylish thriller with over-the-top violence. It follows Syamoto, owner of a small tropical fish shop. His rebellious daughter Mitsuko is caught stealing at a market, who’s owner calls in Syamoto and his wife Taeko (Mitsuko’s stepmother). In walks in Murata, a quirky, outgoing and seemingly friendly gentleman who happens to also be the owner of a tropical fish shop. Murata’s friendly rapport with the shop owner gets Mitsuko off the hook, leaving Syamoto in Murata’s debt.
After a suggestion by Murata for Mitusko to come live and work with him in his flashy fish shop, Syamoto and his wife feel obliged. However, the closer the family gets to Murata, the more Syamoto feels uncomfortable. As he’s pushed to spend more time with Murata, Syamoto see’s a different and very dark side to Murata. As it turns out, Murata is a deranged killer and when Syamoto witnesses a killing his life begins to change dramatically.
The story is based on the real life Gen Sekine and his ex-wife Kiroko Kazama (though their real businses was dogs rather than fish). Movies based on true events, no matter how loosely based they are, always intrigue me. Cold Fish got my attention from the beginning. Knowing their were some facts behind what I was seeing made it much more interesting. I’m unsure of how much in Cold Fish is accurate to the real life, but one thing for sure about the film is that its full of some fairly disturbing individuals.
As Syamoto falls into a dark place, the film starts to make take several turns. The films begins to drag a bit in some areas and the runtime could have been cut down a bit, but the bizarre scenarios keep things interesting. Though I found myself caring less and less about the characters as the movie went on, I was still engaged in what was happening and wanted to know how it was all going to play out.
It slowly becomes apparent that most of the characters are borderline clinically insane. When I thought I knew how a character was going to react, or when I thought I knew how something was going to go down, I was often shocked. While at the beginning I found myself rooting for Syamoto, at the end I even found myself surprised with how he evolved. I’m not sure I bought a few aspects of the characters, especially with Syamoto’s actions during the finale. Perhaps this was because there wasn’t enough exposure to the character development, which the film could have added more of in place of a few of the less significant films that drug the film out.
Cold Fish has a lot of the goods you look for in a serial killer movie: abundance of gore, insane characters, and a psychologically driven story. Its downfall for me though was the stretched out duration, the seemingly incredulous actions of characters and a slightly affected finale. Nonetheless, the film is a stylish psychological thriller full of equal amounts of gore and lunatics that makes for an engaging and visually appealing character study.