Japanese-Indonesian production Killers had its world premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Shot in Tokyo and Jakarta, the film is based on an original story by writer-producer Takuji Ushiyama and tells the increasingly dark tale of Nomura, a self-obsessed serial killer who uploads footage of his murders to the internet, and Bayu, an Indonesian journalist who has crossed a powerful politician in Jakarta and whose career and family are falling apart around him.
The two meet by chance online, and Nomura (played by Kazuki Kitamura) encourages Bayu (Oka Antara) to follow through with his own murderous desires. But the men are fundamentally different: while the Japanese killer targets women who are interested in his money, the journalist wants revenge on the people who have ruined his life.
Timo Tjahjanto, the thriller's co-director (along with Kimo Stamboel, the other half of the Mo Brothers filmmaking partnership) and scriptwriter, admits the background to the film is in part moulded on his own experiences.
"I would say I had two objectives in mind when we set out, one of which was that I wanted to make a film with Japanese people and in Japan - that's a dream of many filmmakers," he says.
"But also, when I was working on the script I was very sensitive to my surroundings. I was living in Jakarta and I had just become a father. I had a lot of frustrations and I also became aware of the violence that surrounds us … [So] I wanted to tell the story of man's dependence on violence in a way that we can all relate to. I was trying to portray non-glamorised violence."
S the filmmakers dotted the unrelentingly violent and graphic movie - which had its Japanese release last month - with touches of comedy. "It's a bleak and depressing film, so we wanted to inject a degree of black humour into it, especially into the Nomura character," Tjahjanto says.
"It's a schizophrenic film [but] if the audience does find anything in there that is funny, it is in there deliberately. If it didn't have anything like that, then I don't think anyone would buy a ticket to see it."
As an example, Tjahjanto points to a scene in which Nomura - who abducts, abuses and then murders his victims, before uploading footage of his crime on the internet - is being questioned by two police officers after just stuffing an unconscious prostitute into the boot of his car.
While the officers await the outcome of an identity check on their radio, the woman climbs groggily out of the car. As the policemen fail to look around, Nomura clubs her into insensibility before concealing her again.
"All the time I was acting the scene, I was thinking how funny it was," says Kitamura. "The more I thought about it, the funnier it became. That all came from Timo's direction."
The actor says there are other comic scenes including in the finale but "when I was watching it later I wondered to myself if it was okay to laugh [because] I wasn't quite sure if it was appropriate".
Not everyone has seen the funny side of Killers, however, with Variety magazine's reviewer Rob Nelson describing the film as "repugnantly savage and arguably immoral" after viewing it at Sundance. It may not be to everyone's taste, but the US distribution rights have been snapped up and it is expected to be released there later this year.
Apart from the overdose of violence, Killers is also notable as the first film collaboration between Japan and Indonesia: it's co-produced by the Nikkatsu Corporation as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations with Indonesian production house Guerilla Merah Films.
The film has also been panned in Japan (with the Japan Times ' Giovanni Fazio dismissing it as "a torture-porn film"), but Nikkatsu seems happy enough with the film's domestic box office performance.