Masato Hagiwara, Tsuyoshi Ujiki, and Kôji Yakusho in Cure (1997)


(director/writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa; cinematographer: Tokusho Kikumura; editor: Kan Suzuki; music: Gary Ashiya; cast: Koji Yakusho (Takabe), Masato Hagiwara (Mamiya), Tsuyoshi Ujiki (Sakuma), Anna Nakagawa (Fumie Takabe), Yoriko Douguchi (Dr. Miyajima), Denden (Oida), Ren Osugi (Fujiwara); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: No Rating; producers: Tetsuya Ikeda/Satoshi Kanno; Cowboy Booking International; 1997-Japan)

“A dark and diverting urban psychologial thriller that is well-acted and staged but goes down an unconvincing metaphysical road in its conclusion.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dark and diverting urban psychological thriller that is well-acted and staged but goes down an unconvincing metaphysical road in its conclusion. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s (no relation to director Akira Kurosawa) film is derivative of others such as Angel Dust and God Told Me To, yet it maintains its own uniqueness. The Japanese filmmaker who has been at it since 1983, shows in Cure that he’s creatively able to shoot a different kind of modern serial killer film.

Detective Takabe (Yakusho) is a seasoned homicide detective who is investigating in the last few months three brutal serial killings, and all with different perps. They committed the crime but don’t know what made them do it, and what compelled them to carve with a knife a large ‘X’ on the victim’s body. The unemotional and unhappy cop seeks guidance from the criminal psychologist, Sakuma (Ujiki), after a prostitute is slain. The psychologist believes that this is one of those “the devil made me do it” serial killings.

On the Shirasato Beach area, just outside Tokyo, an elementary school teacher kills his wife after he picks up a stranger on the beach who has lost his memory. He’s identified only by the name tag sewn on his coat as Mamiya (Hagiwara). The loony guy turns out to have met all the killers during this crime spree, including the next one where a cop kills a fellow precinct cop in the same ritualistic way as in the other crimes and again for no apparent reason. Mamiya is questioned by Takabe at the mental hospital, where he’s being held as a suspect. The cop guesses he uses hypnotic means to pull off these killings, and the cop also learns through his investigation that Mamiya’s a drop-out medical student who vanished six months ago. Searching his flat, he learns that he read Mesmer (the eighteenth-century hypnotist-alchemist) and conducted hypnosis experiments on himself similar to the ones Mesmer proposed.

Contact with Mamiya leads the cop to question who he is and to try to jar him from his memory loss, but Mamiya turns the tables on him by answering each question with another question. It is further learned that he uses a cigarette lighter and spilled water to hypnotize his victims, as he never touches the vics but suggests to the killers that they commit the murder. In this intense atmosphere, the cop begins to hallucinate and also begins to see clearly how his wife Fumie is undergoing severe mental problems and needs to be hospitalized and not taken on a vacation as he previously wanted to do. The thriller takes on a psychological battle of wills, as Mamiya tries to get into the cop’s head and hypnotize him while Takabe resists. But the cop now questions who he is.

The film sets a hypnotic mood of breaking down the under-structure of rational society and the values inherent in such a society, as the means to getting to the end is the thing here and not solving the serial killings. Takabe loses control of himself and his controlled life while undergoing this battle with the perp, as the strange drifter has interrupted his seemingly normal life. In the conclusion, the film challenges society to examine itself for creating such monsters and this results in an unsettling work that offers more questions than answers. Some might be put off by how silly the whole film is and not get to the cinematic artistry of the venture and the puzzling nature of it. They might be right to a certain extent, but I wouldn’t entirely dismiss this film on those grounds.


REVIEWED ON 9/13/2002 GRADE: B –