In 1963, Iwao Enokizu (Ogata) murdered several people. He eluded capture for 78 days, during which time he hid out at a brothel, and fell in love with it's owner.
Before Kitano, and way before Miike, there was Shohei Imamura, and he deserves every ounce of credit he gets for this quiet cornerstone of the serial killer sub-genre.The frankness of the murder scenes is still shocking, and Imamura’s use of long, unflinching takes remains highly effective. Ogata’s performance is chillingly brilliant — completely unhinged, underneath a rarely controlled sheen of normality — the surprise being how nearly indistinguishable he is from the ‘normal’ public (particularly in a scene where his estranged wife and father pour boiling water on a dog). When focused on the protagonist, this is superb, but Imamura’s need to provide a last-minute crutch for Enokizu’s behaviour and ambition for social commentary dilute the power of the central theme, causing Vengeance to outstay its welcome.
Ogata's performance is the obvious highlight, and Imamura constructs an utterly plausible scenario, but at times overreaches, and loses focus. If you can tolerate a few extraneous scenes, though, this is a dark treat.