Notable Cast: Shinsuke Kato, Katsuya Maiguma, Shuna Iijima, Kisetsu Fujiwara, Haruki Takano, Daisuke Ehara, Takuya Sugiwama
Every once in a great while, a film with real potential to become a great classic comes along, but it fails to be seen by enough people, thus rendering it into the obscurities of a sleeper hit. Ken and Kazu is that film in a nutshell. It's micro budget approach never hinders its big picture vision or execution. This is essentially a Best Picture nominee, without all of the fluff. In an ideal world, Japan would've chosen this film as its submission for the Academy Awards, and it would've been shortlisted, but it's always the gems like this that only get so far, but I digress. Ken and Kazu is a gripping tale of brotherhood, drugs, and redemption. Director Shoji Hiroshi crafts one of the strongest debuts in years, and sets him in a position to become one of contemporary Japan's cinema giants.
The titular characters of this drama work together at an auto repair shop, using it as a basis to stem off of and cover up their slowly flourishing drug trafficking job on the side, or rather front and center in a quick and sudden increasing manner. Ken's girlfriend is pregnant with his child and he needs to raise enough money to ensure his soon to be offspring has the ideal lifestyle that it needs to be provided with. His perfect envisionment of his family to be drives his motivation to peddle these drugs, as much as he really doesn't want to. Juxtapose his loving and giving attitude with that of his partner in crime, Kazu, fueled by hatred and an obligation to take his Alzheimer's stricken mother off of his back and put her into a facility, where according to him, she belongs. Despite their opposite characteristics and life philosophies, the two have an inexplicable bond of brotherhood that draws them together, and their common struggles keep that threatening occupation of theirs okay with them in their minds, to varying degrees. Despite Ken clearly wanting to leave the chaos behind him in wake of a new upbringing with his child and significant other, money keeps bringing him in closer to Kazu, and the two find themselves falling deeper into this dark rabbit hole, incapable of escaping their destructive partnership.
|Brothers, for all the wrong reasons.|
The technical finesse is on point here as well, with once again, director Hiroshi really knowing what to do at the helm. It's clear he has a true passion, or at least fascination by the subject matter, and a lot of research had went into this before shooting and even writing the screenplay. In a sense, it reminded me of the gritty portrayal of a man heading toward the bottom fringes of society, whose heart and budding love life ultimately factors into his wanting to leave his corrupt ways behind, as similarly seen back in 1983's Ryuji, although the two are quite different in certain regards. Without trying to lean too heavily on comparisons, as this most certainly stands strong on its own to feet, I also couldn't help but be reminded of another similar low budget feature that punched me in the gut some years back, Yang Ik-june's 2009 underrated masterclass in, once again, another human drama on people of that certain side of society, driven to the edge, Breathless.
|Shinsuke Kato's performance as Ken is|
one of my favorites in recent years.
Written by Josh Parmer