The first thing you’ll notice about blood-soaked neo-noir The World of Kanako is its hyper but never manic pacing. Most shots last about two seconds, lending a disorienting rhythm to the exhausting gamut of stomach-churning violence that ex-cop Akikazu (Koji Yakusho) exposes himself to during his search for missing daughter Kanako (Nana Komatsu).
By immediately confronting viewers with the aggressive editing style as well as a harsh, monochrome color palette, director Tetsuya Nakashima (Confessions, Kamikaze Girls) ensures that no one can misread Akikazu’s investigation as a blithe revanchist fantasy. Somebody gets assaulted, exposed, or murdered every time Akikazu — a hard-drinking, sweat-soaked misogynist who uses his black muscle car as a battering ram — discovers something new about his daughter. And each twisted revelation (police corruption, human trafficking) confirms that even the most outwardly well-meaning, sympathetic characters have a wide vicious streak.
Yakusho’s breathless, riveting performance grounds The World of Kanako even as it threatens to devolve into an unbearable series of nihilistic plot twists and gory set pieces. He brings a wounded, brittle humanity to his character that makes you want to root for — or at least warily sympathize with — him even as he pummels and curses out every woman he comes across.
Yakusho transforms into a spite-fueled revenge machine during World of Kanako‘s most unbelievably grisly scenes, like when Akikazu pulls a screwdriver out of his gut and snarls, “What a joke.” The wild look in Yakusho’s eyes makes Akikazu a genuinely terrifying antihero. You won’t be able to take yours off of him.
The World of Kanako
Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima
Opens December 4, IFC Center