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Released two years after David Fincher’s Seven, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure (Kyua) is one of the most masterful thrillers of a serial killer ever made. The comparisons can be said about both films, with detectives on the case to find a mysterious serial killer, Cure takes a traditional slow pacing, akin to Japanese cinema and manages to tell a compelling story of detective’s slow decent into madness.
The film stars Koji Yakusho, a favorite of Kurosawa, who plays Detective Kenichi Takabe, a man who is severely depressed, due to the fact that he can do nothing to help his mentally unstable wife. He’s given a new case where serial murders are happening, with people getting X’s carved into their necks and then a random person being left not to far away confessing to the crime. Takabe knows that these people aren’t directly responsible for these brutal murders, but tries to find the connective tissue that binds all of the murders together. The only thing that he finds is a mysterious man, named Mamiya, whose been seen with the other suspects before they’ve committed these grisly murders. What happens after these two meet is but a sheer joy ride through the suspense thriller genre.
Cure is a master class is suspense, with every twist and turn enveloping the viewer into a web of deceit and brilliantly plays out until its terrifying ending. While on the surface it would seem like a Seven knock off, the cat and mouse game played by Takabe and Mamiya is much more engaging than what Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt had to face off against Kevin Spacey. The detective has his culprit right in front of him, but he must find a way to crack the obtuse puzzle that has set Mamiya off for instigating these murders.
Once the reveal is shown how Mamiya commits these crimes, the film manages to just crawl under your skin and rattles your bones. Kurosawa effectively sets up the tone and pacing so wonderfully and truly places you into the mindset of the detective, with his world slowly falling apart at home and on the job. The casting of both Yakusho and Masato Hagiwara, who plays Mamiya, is phenomenal and when the two of them are on screen together, an aura of creepiness and unease emits from the screen.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa had already made a few films before this, like some V-Cinema, direct to video fare and a few others, but Cure helped him gain a national audience and showed his potential as a skilled director. This film certainly isn’t for everyone either, its extremely slow and has an ambiguous, that might even confuse and piss people off, but if you’re willing to give it the time and patience it deserves, its one of the best films of the 90’s and one of the best films Japan has ever produced. Bong Joon-ho, the director of The Host and Memories of Murder, listed it in his top ten films of all time to BFI, when they were compiling a recent list of the greatest films poll. That should certainly be a glowing recommendation enough to go seek this film out and that’s why its this weeks, Film for Thought!