I saw this on Sky Arts 2. I read fully all the reviews here and took the main points in hand.
Firstly, there are some "foreign" films and certain directors that either have superb translators/subtitlers and/or use/write excellent scripts, because they read perfectly and intelligently. Ingmar Bergman is one. I haven't seen a Shohei Imamura film before so I don't know about how his others rate in this respect.
Vengeance Is Mine's script bristles with language and conversation that real people use, in this case, either just routine, lazy small talk that most of us use just to get by or some of the things that our lead, murderer Iwao Enokizu (played by Ken Ogata) says when he so off-handedly explains his actions or says to his family and victims.
I then looked at the film from a Japanese audience's stance and then translated that back to something we'd watch about any of our select convicted murderers. Aside of it being in Japanese and set and made there, its style is very Western, or universal. Therefore, to our eyes, once we get over (if we actually can) the shock of this individual's appalling crimes and the way he lived and manipulated others, then this is actually a very straightforward film and one that's extremely well made.
This way, the story and the characters make the film, the director directs impartially and we are left with everything; for us to think about and make our own minds about. This might seem an easy thing for a film to accomplish, but I'm sure it's not so easy.
Yes, its narrative jumps but unless one is actually studying the case's history, to follow the story, this is actually of less importance. Yes, it's long too and sometimes slow and often appears glum and drab, but this isn't Mamma Mia and so to match its subject, glum and drab is fine.
I recorded the movie and will need to see it again. My score may go up to five stars after that, in which case I'll amend my review but it certainly won't go below the four I'm awarding.