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Pathfinder Home Entertainment // Unrated // May 22, 2007
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted May 13, 2007 | E-mail the Author
As soon as a film bathed in noir-ish flavor hits the screen, it's almost unavoidable to ignore that inherent checklist of essentials comprising a natural film noir. With darkened, well-photographed scenery and corrupt individuals abound, especially a striking femme fatale, there's something richly sinister about the demeanor of such flicks that make them so sumptuously provocative. Nobody, a Japanese suspense penned and directed by Shundo Ohkawa, takes these elements by the horns and crafts a tense, mysterious ride filled with testosterone's mechanical scheming.

The Film:

Set in modern Japan, Ohkawa's tale drops us in a smoky, colorfully lavish bar amidst three drunken advertising suits. Each guy absorbs typical stereotypes that range from the brazen aggressor Nanbu and the paranoid weakling Konishi, to our brooding protagonist Taki. As typical when "liquid courage" trickles down the hatch, confidence and adrenaline run high as the three guys peer across the room and jokingly prod at a table laden with a triad of sketchy, well-dressed men. With a flick of a Rolex-laden wrist and a click of a Zippo, the thuggish guys beg for a comment or two - and receive such from the inebriated friends. Nevertheless, these guys happen to be the wrong individuals to insult.

After a quick exit outside the club, Konishi finds himself squared up alone with the three irritated thugs. To say the very least, he gets roughed up in quite a nasty fashion. Taki and Nanbu pry the details of this incident from the scathed Konishi and make a brash decision to seek revenge on the thugs. After a few nights of searching once their business days had concluded, the three finally catch the opportunity to grasp revenge on a lone member of that clique. Then, their tailspin into a world of fear and aggression begins.

From the start, Nobody's narrative takes on some juvenile traits that are a little difficult to shake. Instead of crafting tension between the two trios, the conflict feels more like a schoolyard war of retaliations, three-on-one beat up after another. It makes our heroes seem foolish and narcissistically naive for charging into the night in search of vengeance. There's a fine line between honor and stupidity, and engaging a trio of potentially dangerous hoodlums leans more towards the ignorant than the courageous. This is easily forgiven, however, as Taki and Nanbu's intentions seem noble and pure-hearted enough to follow and entrust.

All this, thankfully, unfurls in a sumptuous environment. Nobody's weakness in the first act preserves some form of buoyancy with smooth, palatable photography. Ensnaring a colorful noir-ish demeanor, Ohkawa makes certain to hold the viewer's attention aesthetically through the guys' self-indulgent, mannish behavior. Whether this protagonist vacancy amidst lush locations is intentional or not dances on a very vague line. Equally as vague is Taki's muddy relationship with his traveling girlfriend, which works just enough as a vehicle for the bold, sumptuous femme fatale. It's an eye-catching clunker of a first act that leaves a bit to be desired.

Then, an unpredictably pleasant surprise floats to the surface of this yarn. Nobody takes a sharp turn towards a fuller, starker dynamic about halfway down the stretch. It morphs from a simple-minded gangster flick into something more akin with the film's true style. Obvious lines drawn out from the start begin to blur as police, Yakuza, and corporate intrusions step in and muck supposedly concrete assumptions. Mystery in the form of a suspenseful guessing game keeps you interested as the violent corners of this conflict start to show their secrets. Everybody becomes both a suspect and a target.

Nobody cracks the whip about halfway through and gallops towards an achievement of cynical, twisting suspicion. Though nothing groundbreaking pops up amidst the film's reckless tale of retribution, there are enough attractively fleshed coils that justify an unsatisfying opening. It's a nicely shot noir, rich with enough gripping visuals and little treats scattered about that make Ohkawa's dark, amusing rollercoaster worth the strenuous climb to the top of the hill.

The DVD:

Pathfinder Home Entertainment presents Nobody in a standard keepcase DVD with very simplistic black coverart and discart.

The Video:

Nobody is presented in an anamorphic widescreen presentation that leaves as much to be desired as the murky first half of the film. An easy description would be to say Nobody looks like it was drawn out in vibrant, colorful mud. There's dust, scratches, and reel shift cigarette burns littered throughout the entire film. Detail is exceedingly fuzzy, lacking a large amount of definition that'd be very welcome with such a beautifully shot film. The visually mesmerizing palette alone looks fairly nice, however, even through this intense fog. Nobody is a colorful, ravishingly palpable flick that isnt done justice through this transfer.

The Audio:

Almost equally as underwhelming is the Japanese Dolby 2.0 stereo track. It's not a horrible aural experience, but the brevity of such a wispy noir should fill out the experience better. Dialogue was a bit muffled and unclear, while most of the sound effects lacked much definition in their punch. There's a bit of audio popping in a few spots, but not to any horrible extent. It's a mediocre track that leaves an average, serviceable aftertaste.

The Subtitles:

Most of the translated dialogue was actually pretty clean, understandable and grammatically correct. There's a few choice scenes missing a word or two from out language, as well as an entertaining use of the phrase "God Dame", instead of an unmentionable vulgarity. It works well, with a few limitations and lost dialogue in the translation.

The Extras:

There's a Theatrical Trailer that, strangely enough, seems a little bit cleaner in print than the actual film. The contents don't give away much of the plot and works quite well as an introductory trailer to watch before the film gets rolling.

A Photo Gallery also showcases a few choice scenes from this film, available in both a slideshow and Still Gallery format. After watching the film, there's not a lot to be gotten from these photos that seem to be taken predominately from the film itself.

Other than that, a Scene Selection option is available.


Final Thoughts:

It's pretty standard suspense fair, but Nobody carries enough visual panache and gripping whodunit ambiguity around the core to make it worth your time. Once the initial, stumbling setup is usurped and the film starts gaining tense momentum, it carries an enjoyably decent quality from that point forward. Though this disc won't leaves you terribly impressed in the aural and visual departments, Nobody is still a flick worth a look for a Rental.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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