Love it or hate it, Cold Fish is one of those movies that stands with its head high as something quite unique. It has a load of violence, some sex scenes that may offend some people and buckets of blood here and there but it also has great characters and a languorous pace that just allows things to build and build to a violent climax that you sense is unavoidable.
Shamato is the owner of a small, tropical fish, store and doesn’t seem to have a happy home life. His second wife is unhappy with the life they lead and his daughter, Mitsuko, doesn’t really care for either of them. When his daughter is caught shoplifting the trio meet an unlikely saviour, Maruto. Maruto assures the shopkeeper that Mitsuko will not make the same mistake again and then takes the family to see his own big shop, also a tropical fish store. Maruta offers Mitsuko a job that will see her gain independence from her parents while being in the company of people they can trust and starts to pave the way to help Shamato change his whole life for the better.
Directed by Sion Sono (who also co-wrote the film with Yoshiki Takahashi), Cold Fish is not an easy journey. It’s about 144 minutes long and in no rush to pile on the tension and thrills until the second half gets underway. However, in the scenes when things get graphic and bloody it goes all out to make sure that this isn’t a film to be watched by anyone with a sensitive demeanour.
Apparently based on the true story of a prolific Japanese serial killer, Cold Fish displays some gritty realism alongside some over the top nuttiness. There’s a slippy, slidey chase sequence that will make you laugh despite the amount of blood running over ever surface and even bodily dismemberment is something shown with a couple of gags added.
The acting is fun, if not always great. This is one of those Japanese movies in which people laugh a little louder and longer than is quite usual and moments of quick violence are delivered with almost rapturous expressions at times. Having said that, there are also many more restrained moments that show a man trying to make his family life work, and failing miserably. It’s these scenes that add impact to the nastiness as and when things began to get worse and worse.
Cold Fish – something being sold in the stores of both men. Cold Fish – a partner who is unresponsive, a person who is aloof and unemotional. Cold Fish – an excellent film that could have benefited from some editing (the thing could easily stand to lose about 20 minutes, at the very least) but that remains an impressive viewing experience.
DIRECTOR: SION SONO
STARS: MAKOTO ASHIKAWA, DENDEN, MITSURU FUKIKOSHI, MEGUMI KAGURAZAKA, HIKARI KAJIWARA
RUNTIME: 144 MINS APPROX