Vengeance is Mine Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Ken Ogata, Rentaro Mikuni, Chocho Miyako
  • Director: Shohei Imamura
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: August 26, 2014
  • Run Time: 140 minutes


            Vengeance is Mine is the character study of a killer thief on the run, but it keeps the audience at a distance that never fully allows understanding of the deviant actions of our anti-hero. Following in the tradition of In Cold Blood and Purple Noon, the true evidence lies in his murderous actions, regardless of what masks are worn for the public. Director Shohei Imamura takes the real-life events from a 78-day manhunt for a thief and killer, translating the story into something with parallels in Japanese society in the late 1970s.


            Ken Ogata stars as the womanizing thief and killer, Iwao Enokizu, who eluded capture for 78-days by taking on different identities and lazy disguises. As much as the film is about this killer, we often learn more about him from the time spent with his regretful family. His devoutly Christian father struggles over his lust for the woman they arranged to be the wife of their son, and they wait for Iwao’s mother to pass as eagerly as Iwao’s capture and execution, so that they can be together.


            This is only the first of several dysfunctional families that we will see over the course of the film, including inn owners in Osaka who serve as a family for Iwao during his days eluding the police. He stays at the inn under the stolen identity of a lawyer, engaging in a sexual relationship with the neglected wife (Mayumi Ogawa) of the innkeeper while the ex-convict pervert mother watches. He isn’t on the run as much as he is in hiding, though it always proves to be a temporary situation when Iwao’s greed and killer instincts emerge once again.


            The Blu-ray release includes a restored high-defintion digital transfer of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Also available with the film’s playback is an optional commentary track from 2005 by critic Tony Rayns. Also included in the special features is an excerpt from a 1999 interview with Imamura, as well as a trailer gallery. The package has a booklet insert which also includes an essay by critic Michael Atkinson, a 1994 interview with Imamura, as well as some of his personal writings on the film.  


    Entertainment Value: 6.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10

    Historical Significance:  8/10

    Special Features: 8/10

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