Ahhh, Takashi Miike. He’s quite mad, as I’m sure many people already know. Thankfully, he’s also quite brilliant. Having dabbled in many different genres throughout his career, Lesson Of The Evil is a return to the kind of carnage that has won him an army of fans over the past couple of decades.
Ito Hideaki plays a teacher named Hasumi, a teacher who seems to be liked by both staff and pupils. He’s a handsome, friendly figure who can come up with a way to stop pupils cheating in exams one minute, and help out a young girl being sexually harassed by another teacher the next. But Hasumi has a dark past, a past that is revealed as the movie goes on, and it quickly becomes obvious that he’s planning something big.
If you get a chance to see Lesson Of The Evil then do so, because it’s not the kind of film that will ever get a wide release. The central subject matter – the film really leads up to a third act that has to be seen to be believed – will prove too uncomfortable for many, and the sheer amount of blood and violence onscreen will, quite possibly, see it run into problems in some territories.
Hideaki is superb in the lead role, likable and charming until a coldness sets in. Considering the actions of the character, the casting of the role was vital, and it’s hard to think of anyone who would have been better. Everyone else also does great work, but the film is all about Haumi. Even when he’s not onscreen, his shadow falls over everything.
Miike directs with his usual style and unflinching approach. Despite the fact that the man is extremely prolific, he can still produce great works of art, with this being a perfect example of that. The first half isn’t anything too special, mainly due to the dull school backdrop, but a colourful, surreal “interlude” signals a move into a more interesting visual palette, which helps to move things ever so slightly away from harsh reality when the explosive extended finale begins.
I’ve tried, as usual, to keep this review spoiler-free, which means that it’s perhaps frustratingly vague for anyone wanting to know a bit more about the movie. It also means I can’t fully explain why I love it so much, but let me just say that Miike doesn’t disappoint. He brings the lunacy and bloodshed, and also admirably refuses to fill up the movie with rational justification for every plot development. All that matters is that Hasumi believes, in his own mind, that he is justified.
I’m not sure when, or if, Lesson Of The Evil will receive a wider release in the UK. I’m not even sure if it will be released on shiny disc form. But I do know that fans of Miike should keep an eye out for it.
DIRECTOR: TAKASHI MIIKE
WRITER: TAKASHI MIIKE (BASED ON THE NOVEL BY YUSUKE KISHI)
STARS: ITO HIDEAKI, TAKAOKA SAKI, KANNO RIO, HAYASHI KENTO
RUNTIME: 129 MINS APPROX