Film / Reviews

'Divine Justice': The surprises behind closed doors

by Mark Schilling

Contributing Writer

Love hotels feature in many Japanese films, including those, like Ryuichi Hiroki’s “Kabukicho Love Hotel” and Izuru Kumasaka’s “Asyl: Park and Love Hotel,” that make such establishments a central focus. Typically guests drop their social masks within their walls, while employees get an up-close view of human nature, if not always human bodies, in the raw.

Takayuki Takuma’s “Divine Justice” uses a room at a love hotel as a pressure cooker with sex, lies and a camcorder among the ingredients. As revelation follows revelation emotions erupt, from towering rage to craven fear. The nonstop plot twists are mostly played for laughs, though some of the humor edges over from the black to the disturbingly abusive.

Also, the back-and-forth between the characters stays shouty for so long it becomes numbing (or maybe that’s just my geriatric synapses talking). Even so, veteran Hiroshi Mikami and the rest of the main cast deserve endurance prizes for surviving the film’s marathon takes, the longest being 40 minutes. It’s like watching jugglers add ball after ball but never dropping one. Not that the story makes much real world sense, but neither does the circus.

Divine Justice (Rabu Hoteru ni Okeru Jojito Puran no Hate)
Rating
Run Time 105 mins.
Language JAPANESE
Opens Now Showing

The ringmaster is Mamiya (Mikami), a middle-aged cop who is on duty when he shows up at a love hotel room with a blood-red circular bed and fish swimming in a big columnar tank. He has set up a camera in his bag to secretly record the action when his young paramour, Reika (Moe Miura) sashays in. Although she is a call girl, we soon learn she is also a long-term lover Mamiya has promised to marry after ditching his wife and child. His devotion begins to seem less than pure, however, when Reika casually mentions the hush money Mamiya has been paying to keep her from notifying his superiors of their affair.

Nonetheless, they are having enthusiastic sex on the bed (with the camera strategically moved to a nearby pillow) when the doorbell rings. A female police officer (Wakana Sakai) storms in and announces herself as Mamiya’s wife. As Mamiya cringes and apologizes, Reika coolly claims he is a first-time date she has yet to make carnal contact with. The wife, Shiori, sees through this lie, citing the remains of their pre-coital snack — hamburgers and a ketchup bottle — as evidence, but Reika counters that she just wants money and has no romantic designs on Mamiya. At last, the truth — or is it?

More visitors are still to come, including Reika’s tough-guy pimp (Tsuyoshi Abe) and an excitable Chinese drug dealer (Kazuki Namioka) of Mamiya’s acquaintance. There is also a body to dispose of, though I won’t say whose. All the while the characters never leave the room — or move far out of the camera’s range.

This may make the film sound like an adapted stage play, but it began life as Takuma’s original script. Also, the camera-in-a-bag cinematography makes the audience seem more like peeping Toms behind a couch than theatergoers in the fifth row.

The ending, to put it as vaguely as possible, came as a total surprise. I didn’t quite buy it but I had to applaud its ingenuity and wonder how its creator cooked up his elaborately tricky routine — I mean script — with its sleight-of-hand-like plot. Now you understand it, now you don’t.

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