Asian cinema: Japanese films

The Crimes That Bind film review: Keigo Higashino crime mystery unravels in tedious fashion

This murder mystery based on a novel from bestselling author Keigo Higashino is set in Tokyo’s fading Nihonbashi District. The Crimes That Bind starts off well, but falls away towards the end of the film, leaving the viewer unsatisfied

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2018, 1:12pm

2/5 stars

The discovery of a woman’s body in an abandoned flat presents police detective Kyoichiro Kaga (Hiroshi Abe) with his most personal case yet, in this latest mystery from bestselling author Keigo Higashino ( Miracles of the Namiya General Store ).

Set in the once-prosperous Nihonbashi District, Higashino’s novels follow Kaga’s “newcomer” police officer, who has been transferred into the neighbourhood, and are as much about its dwindling fortunes as they are about Kaga’s cases and unique powers of deduction.

Kaga’s investigation introduces a beautiful theatre director (Nanako Matsushima), to whom he is instantly drawn, but also to a charred corpse that may, in turn, be connected to his own mother, who died 16 years earlier. As the web of intrigue widens, secrets are revealed that may finally explain Kaga’s own connection to Nihonbashi.

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Director Katsuo Fukuzawa creates a great sense of place, operating with numerous characters and timelines, while juggling the idiosyncratic rituals of the neighbourhood with the hustle and bustle of a thriving metropolis. But the film’s impressively coherent set-up is thrown away as its second half devolves into a series of lengthy confessions and flashbacks that stop the drama dead in its tracks.

Fukuzawa cannot be blamed for this structural flaw, which clearly originates from the source novel, and likely unfolds better on the page than the screen. Nevertheless, the results prove wholly uncinematic and unsatisfying, as entire histories, motives and character arcs are presented to the audience in one hour-long info dump, rather than inviting us to play amateur sleuth alongside Kaga.

The Crimes That Bind opens on May 24

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