(director: Ryuichi Hiroki; screenwriters: Nami Kikkawa/based on the manga series Gunjo by Ching Nakamura; cinematographer: Tadashi Kuwabara; editor: Minoru Nomoto; music: Koki Moriyama; cast: Honami Sato (Nanae Shinoda), Kiko Mizuhara (Rei Nagasawa), Yoko Maki (Mika), Shinya Niiro (Kotaro), Shinya Niiro (Kotaro), Anne Suzuki (Yu); Runtime: 142; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Kaata Sakamoto, Haruo Umekawa; Netflix; 2021-Japan)

“A cleverly scripted bloody romantic drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A cleverly scripted bloody romantic drama by Nami Kikkawa that’s skillfully directed as a LGBTQ thriller by the prolific Japanese filmmaker Ryuichi Hiroki  (“Marmalade Boy”/”Policeman and Me”). It’s based on the manga cult series Gunjo by Ching Nakamura.

The self-discovery road film expands from the bustling big-city scene in Tokyo to the sun-filled rural country-side of the married protagonist’s childhood home.

The prologue opens with the twentysomething Rei Nagasawa (Kiko Mizuhara, Texas born current rage in Japan), a wealthy plastic surgeon, living with her girlfriend (Yoko Maki), arriving at an underground bar to hook up with a stranger married man (Shinya Niiro), who takes her back to his apartment for sex. After sex Rei brutally murders the rich businessman by slitting his throat and goes on the run with her soon to be lesbian lover Nanae (Honami Sato), someone Rei was attracted to in high school but never had sex with. It turns out the vic was Nanae’s abusive husband and the straight housewife provokes her childhood friend to eliminate hubby by showing her some body bruises, and without further coaxing Rei does the hit job for love even though she hasn’t seen Nanae for the last ten years.

While on the run in Nanae’s BMW,
the scene
reminded me of the 1991’s Thelma and Louise. Tension builds as we yearn to see how things get resolved in this perilous journey that ends by the seaside.

At 142-minutes, the film goes on for too long, the motivations of the leads is enigmatic and the pacing is languid, as one can easily lose interest in the story. But it shows off some of the beautiful vistas of Japan; has a few effective sound tracks that connect with the emotions, like The Cardigans singing their “Lovefool
;”  and the two stars have charisma, playing old friends at an elite girl’s prep school and on the lam lesbian lovers to perfection–going from moments of joy to dread, making their ritualized journey seem more like a reunion film between friends than a police chase movie.