Award winning Japanese film Villain (Originally `Akunin') is so far off the beaten track to make it interesting on many levels, It tells the story of a blue collar loser Yuichi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) he works in construction in a fishing village where he gets to look after his aged grand parents and drive a car that is all about being a substitute for his manly attributes rather than a form of transportation. More socially inept than a feral cat, he goes on line to find love or at least some `executive relief'. There he meets Yoshino (Hikari Mizushima), who has also been left on the shelf and has a life of servile existence working in a clothes shop. They meet and after what can only be called the worst false start in dating history, they sort of fall for each other.
Mean while we see a rising socialite and part time hussy who has been charging Yuichi for bedroom time and who has also fallen for an egocentric and all round bad boy, who's basically loaded. She winds up dead, and her father starts a one man campaign to bring the perpetrator to justice, at first the play boy is in the frame but soon she is found to have had links to Yuichi. He decides that life is pretty dull any way and with Yoshino basically begging for it, he takes her away and they go on the run.
This is not a 'Bonnie and Clyde' style caper of running from the law, this is more basic; where the real strengths are is in the ambiguities of the characters. There are so many hints as to where the characters psyches have come from and a past for Yuichi more miserable than a pit ponies, including abandonment issues. Also we have the impact on his Grandmother, the media mishandling and the inert play of the two main characters which is cringingly awkward and naked in its honesty at times. The bereaved father is played brilliantly swinging from street avenger to apologetic gate crasher often in the same scene.
This has been made beautifully with attention to detail that is often missed, it has been criticised for being too long and at 140 minutes they might be fair comments. I did felt it could have been leaner in parts, but the way the story unravels and the development of the tension probably benefit from that pacing, so not a big issue. Director Sang il Lee has made a powerful and gripping film, that did rather well in Japan but had only a limited release in the UK and despite critical acclaim, it never achieved financial success. I hope we get to see more from all involved in this film, if you are a serious World Cinema fan you will want to see this film.