Sometimes when we go searching for something, we find more than what we’re looking for. Dig under your couch looking for the remote, and you find random change, that pocket knife you lost months ago. Go looking for a friend and you could end up finding them in bed with your spouse. Or you can just find out more about yourself. In Drafthouse Films’ latest release, THE WORLD OF KANAKO, a former detective searches for his missing daughter, and finds out more about her, himself, and the world itself.
Akikazu Fujishima (Koji Yakusho, 13 ASSASSINS, SHALL WE DANCE?) plays the aforementioned father. Divorced, alcoholic, and removed from the job that his life revolved around, Akikazu is already in a downward spiral when we meet him. Drinking to the point of being sick, then continuing to drink, he’s just pushing himself closer and closer to death, as he’s lost his purpose in life. After finding his wife with a much younger man, he retaliated by crashing his car into theirs, then beating the man mercilessly. He was let go from his job due to these actions. All that changes in an instant though when his ex-wife calls him to say that their daughter has been missing. Akikazu has to return to his old skill set to track down his own flesh and blood, while trying to escape the haze that he’s fully swimming in.
On his path, he deals with his daughter’s school friends and finds that she was involved in bigger, seedier things. What begins as hyper-kinetic voyeuristic jaunt like Gregg Araki meets Joseph Kahn film, devolves into a blood filled crime drama, like Tarantino’s rendition of OLDBOY. And while many films take you “down the rabbit hole” and while most leave it as merely a metaphor, THE WORLD OF KANAKO references “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland” regularly throughout the movie.
As things get more brutal and frenetic, we learn more and more about Kanako, beautifully played by Nana Komatsu in her debut performance. On the surface, Kanako is the sweet girl next door type. She’s the popular girl that boys flock to, other girls strive to be. But underneath that, we see layer upon layer, gradually revealing a sociopath. A performance like this would be impressive from an experienced actor, but is even more so impressive as this is her debut feature.
Director Tetsuya Nakashima does a great job of disarming you up front with the fast paced editing up front and throwing deep down the rabbit hole. Things get even more disorienting with the extremely upbeat soundtrack playing behind the disturbing things Akikazu uncovers. Filled with J-pop and some Dean Martin, it makes the acts portrayed hit even harder, as mentally you are torn in two audibly and visually.
THE WORLD OF KANAKO is not a film for everyone, but if you appreciate a crazy crime drama that will make you question your own morals, then it is worth checking out. And of course, Drafthouse Films does a great job of picking unique films to fill out their distribution channel.
THE WORLD OF KANAKO is currently available in theaters and on VOD as of December 4th, 2015.