Daniel K Gray reviews the highly controversial Japanese film about police corruption, Confessions of a Dog.
Released By: Third Window Films
Availability: Out now
There’s a long tradition of movies that deal with police corruption through the years. Whether it’s LA Confidential, Training Day, Dark Blue, The Departed or Al Pacino in the still-classic Serpico, Hollywood has often turned its attention to those who go beyond the ‘serve and protect’ motto and merely serve their own interests. Some of the movies take an amoral stance, standing solemn with no particular judgement on their selection of heroes, villains and anti-heroes’ proceedings and others act as savage indictments of the institution – and those involved – when it become corrupted and perverted.
Gen Takahashi's Confessions of a Dog is certainly no timid canine when it comes to highlighting a whole array of corruption on every level of the Japanese police-force. In fact, it’s hard to think of an example of corruption that isn’t featured as we follow Takeda (Shun Sugata), first seen as a somewhat apathetic street cop who is plucked from his mundane job and begins his way up through the system. Similar to many outings concerning innocence lost, we see him as initially feeling concerned at the blatant opportunism on show around him and then begins to as he became compromised and even efficient at the short-cuts and violence, before we see the wheel turn full circle to the personal consequences he faces.
The film was made for release in 2005, but due to the negative depiction of the law enforcers did not see any significant release in its native Japan. However it is claimed that though technically a work of fiction, almost every example of the corruption is taken from real, documented cases and, indeed, the film was seen by some as a persuasive tool to force a more open approach to investigations of corruption (though that might be somewhat naïve).
This is not a short or easy film, with a running time of over three hours and many scenes that clearly earn its ’15’ certificate and more. Equally, though you can’t deny its power and activist’s heart, it’s not a particularly hopeful film with no real answers and a sense that if this is truly a depiction of the way the system works then there is little hope for anything or anyone caught up and crushed in its cogs and duplicity. Gen Takahashi will have won no fans in the police or government in his push to get this to screens . However Shun Sugata is a solid lead in a role that calls for the powerful performance he gives throughout and the mood and atmosphere consistently draws you in.
It will be interesting to see if the film gets a better international reception than in Japan itself. It certainly got attention and plaudits at the New York Asian Film Festival last year and this DVD release in the UK courtesy of Third Window Films should give it a chance for a wider perspective on a specifically cultural story that may resonate beyond its borders.
Daniel K Gray