Suspect X

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So this will be an unusual review.  Last time out, I looked at “Perfect Number”, and this time I will have a look at the movie that was remade by our Korean friends.  This does mean the synopsis will be a little bit of a cut and paste, and maybe I will have to look at the film in context of how it differs.   The question is, do both films stand up on their own, and which one tickles my film taste buds more?

Suspect X” concerns itself with the story of reclusive and nerdy Mathematics Professor Ishigami (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi), a lonely man driven only by his love of Numbers and his unrequited (and let’s face it somewhat creepy and stalkerish) love for his neighbour, the pretty divorcee Yasuko Hanaoka (Yasuko Matsuyuki).  Ex-Hostess Yasuko has basically moved to Tokyo to escape from her abusive ex-husband, and to dedicate herself to raising her Daughter.  However, he tracks her down, and attacks her. Yasuko and her daughter fight back, and end up killing him.  Ishigami hears it all through the thin walls, and immediately goes next door to help.  He then concocts a perfect alibi for the pair.  When the body is discovered on the banks of the River, although suspicion falls upon Yasuko, the Police eventually have to discount her, partly because of the where the body is, and also because she has a very verifiable alibi.  Thing is, Detective Kaoru Utsumi (Kô Shibasaki) knows in her gut that Yasuko did it (she may have a perfect alibi, but she has a cast-iron motive), even though her superiors and colleagues constantly tell her otherwise.  It turns out though that Ishigami is an old classmate of Manabu Yukawa (Masaharu Fukuyama), a brilliant physicist, who often helps out Utsumi on cases, and whilst reawakening their friendship, he begins to realise that his genius school-friend quite possibly is involved in this case.  Can Yukawa solve the identity of the murderer?  And in doing so, maybe start to understand the great unponderable variable of Love, which seems to have no place in the worlds of Physics or Mathematics?

I really enjoyed this movie.  The actual guts of the story are identical to the remake, right down to some almost identical scenes, and the general flow and direction of the storyline.  However, there are a couple of key differences, and for me, they actually worked better.

Most obviously is that the role of the Detective is sidelined.  This does mean that the usually great Kô Shibasaki is somewhat underdeveloped, other than as a constant reminder of sexism rife within the Japanese Police (at one point she is told to simply go make coffee for everyone).  I get the feeling (one which I had about a few things in the film) that some of this is following up on events from the preceding TV show.  However, this is balanced by the use of Detective Galileo himself, Yukawa.  Introduced in a quite brilliant sequence where a small physics experiment is suddenly expanded to prove a previous murder, all my issues with the Korean movie with regards to the battle of wits between the two male leads are taken care of.  Here we have two geniuses in their fields, both fully aware of just how smart the other is.  The real substance of their conflict is that whilst both are obsessed with the purity of their disciplines, one has been changed by the influence of that great X Factor… Love. 

I get the sense that the TV show concentrated a lot more on Physics solving mysteries, but here that is all put aside early on, to deal with much more human motivations.  And because of the lack of a preceding 10 episode TV show, this is why the Korean remake dispensed with the Galileo character completely.

Performances are really good all round, with Shin’ichi Tsutsumi being particularly excellent, and Yasuko Matsuyuki really impressing.  The toning down of the melodrama, without affecting the underlying dynamic works so much better here,

As a film, it is not as sumptuous as the Korean version, being sharp and well filmed, but far more Japanese and workmanlike (although not without skill).  However, in its favour, it is far better at unravelling the mystery, making a couple of key plot points much clearer.  It also does a much better job with the Yasuko character, giving her a slightly more seedy past (and therefore making her a better suspect), as well as making her charge actually her daughter (the whole thing with the niece in the Korean version was just a little strange and unnecessary).

It is a much more straightforward film, but also succeeds because there is more of a relationship between the two male leads, and the questions raised about how love and obsession can twist the most logical of minds simply make more sense in the world constructed in this movie.  I enjoyed them both, but surprisingly I think I preferred the Japanese version, making this one.. Highly Recommended.

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