Toma, oh Toma. From the animated Nakatsu Shuichi in HanaKimi*, to the upright detective with a haunting past Serizawa Naoto in Maou, to the pensive adolescent with unrequited love Takemoto Yuuta in HachiKuro^, to the quirky guy in Unubore Deka, to the rather undemanding romance characters in Hanamizuki and Bokura ga Ita… I think i’ve seen you in quite a wide variety of roles justifying your versatility as an actor. Likewise, there’s a varying degree of acting performance showed — some are grrrreat some are so-so — though none of which is unbearable to watch. Add Nou Otoko to the list and now i changed my mind.
I was nestling myself onto the seat when the movie opens with grinding sound followed by dingy, unsettling, sadistic scene. Ack! THAT scared the crap out of me… I was deliberating whether to keep on watching. What a gripping way to open the film; it feels like The Raid: Redemption all over again. By the time the credit rolls, i was mentally and physically bushed. The in-between hours are filled with gory, graphic ferocity which thankfully gets toned down as the story progresses. What ensues instead is a chilling presence of the titular subject.
Admitted to being fainthearted, i always try to stay clear of horror or thriller. So it’s not as if i wasn’t aware that Nou Otoko falls under that genre. Its trailer should be enough of a caveat, but i was intrigued to see how Toma would fare embodying such an extreme character. Then i kept postponing watching, bracing myself for the impact, still…! I guess chilling is an understatement. In short, i saw more than what i bargained for.
He plays Suzuki Ichiro, the titular ‘brain man’ due to his eidetic memory and robotic bearing. Apprehended in a secret hideout, he becomes the prime suspect of the serial bomb attacks terrorizing the city. When sent to have a psychological examination, he is assigned to Washiya Mariko (Matsuyuki Yasuko), god-like psychiatrist able to bring the ‘better’, more socially acceptable side of a transgressor.
His peculiarity is very noticeable- he sports a lean yet good build, displays precise body clock, and is devoid of any emotions down to the sense of pain. He is cooperative during the sessions but his matter-of-fact responds aren’t necessarily helpful. What’s even creepier is the fact that he doesn’t blink and stares lifelessly at a spot. When he does eye something, however, it is one that would send chills down your spine and make your body hair bristles. Especially when he tilts his head to the left…*shudder*
He isn’t one of a kind, though. The other persona non grata is browless Midorikawa Noriko (Nikaido Fumi), female version of Suzuki Ichiro who also kills without batting an eyelash. Ugh, these people. The difference is she is a downright psychopath, which in turn making Suzuki’s act of eradicating evildoers who escape law all nobler. What? He lets a fly out of his cell! She is thrilled to find an equal (in whatever sense) and aims to takes him down. It is obvious the showdown between these two unfeeling beasts would be the movie’s highest plot point. I seriously don’t know how to react to that.
Nou Otoko moves in a steady if not flat pace. So much so that by an hour mark it is still in introductory phase with Dr. Washiya and Cop? Detective? Chaya (Eguchi Yosuke) trying to unravel Suzuki’s backstory. Most of the characters’ characters and backgrounds are explained through narration. Usually this method effectively brings us closer to the said subjects, but here i never cared for any character at all. The only one i like is Chaya’s sidekick (Owada Kensuke) who provides comic relief in this exceedingly dreary movie.
Acting-wise, the ensemble shows quite a solid performance. All is natural though Midorikawa and her one-two-punch may seem caricature at times. Toma’s portrayal of Suzuki Ichiro is soul-sucking, though Nikaido’s Midorikawa is way more disturbing. Not that the movie itself is any less painful to watch, no thanks to them.
*) Hanazakari no Kimitachi e ~Ikemen Paradise~
^) Hachimitsu to Kuroba (Honey and Clover)
Rating: what should i give you?? !&@^#*$*#
Nou Otoko (The Brain Man)
Director: Takimoto Tomoyuki
Production: Toho, 2013
Cast: Ikuta Toma, Matsuyuki Yasuko, Nikaido Fumi, Eguchi Yosuke, Ohta Rina
Genre: J-movie, Pyschological thriller