Murder mysteries are popular film and television fodder in Japan, but most revolve around puzzle plots that hold as much real-world probability as the cases of Sherlock Holmes.

Hirokazu Koreeda's "The Third Murder" also presents a puzzle, but it's in the form of twice-convicted killer Takashi Misumi (Koji Yakusho) who, shortly after his release from 30 years in prison, is arrested again on suspicion of committing yet another murder.

The film, which premiered at this year's Venice Film Festival, begins as a noir-ish procedural (imagine an episode of "Law & Order" transposed to Japan). Working from his own script, however, Koreeda transforms his simple premise into a powerful, intricately constructed meditation on the mysteries of the heart, the elusiveness of truth and the injustices of the Japanese justice system, in which the scales are tipped in favor of the prosecution.