Run time: 113 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 22nd March 2008
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Masaya Kakei
Producer: Masaya Kakei
Screenwriter: Masaya Kakei
As Chiba, Kaneshiro is an easygoing grim reaper who teleports through time in the company of a sardonic black dog (who communicates telepathically) to drop in on people's lives not to kill them but to spend a week evaluating whether they are ready for death. It's a question he answers by trying to determine whether they have "fulfilled their purpose." He has to tread carefully, though. A mere touch of his bare hand can send a person into a near-death experience. The movie takes him through three such evaluations spread more than 40 years apart, and yes, it turns out that the stories are somewhat connected.
First he is sent to meet a shy young woman (Manami Konishi) who works at a customer service phone line. The year is 1988. Having lost many loved ones to unfortunate deaths, she has no particular love of life herself, but ironically, the guy who comes to prepare her for her own premature death is the person who makes her appreciate life for the first time. The two develop a crush on each other as she is charmed by his childlike love of all kinds of music and his literal interpretation of everyday turns of phrase. "My face is hard to look at," she says. He moves closer, takes a long hard look, and says, "No, I can see it fine." "No," she says. "I mean I have a plain face." His response: "Oh, well, yes, that's true."
Moving on, the reaper leaps ahead 20 years and finds himself in the midst of a yakuza assassination plot, trying to decide if a gang boss is ready to die while the boss's young protégé, who sees him as a father figure, works really hard to keep the guy alive as rival gangs circle. The gag here is that pretty much every gang member who wanders through the underground lair has his own personal reaper standing by ready to pass judgment at any moment. It's a hazardous profession.
Finally, the reaper moves ahead another 20 years or so to a remote seaside village where he evaluates the life of a 70-year-old hairdresser (Sumiko Fuji). Gentle probing reveals a few of her secrets, and the three stories begin to fold in on each other in obvious but moving ways. The overarching lesson is that life is meant to be lived with purpose. We all have one, and when we have fulfilled it there's no particular reason to keep on going. It's an unsettling thought, especially if you don't know what your purpose is, but Accuracy of Death is delicate in stating its themes. It's beautifully shot, and it's charming throughout. Credit for much of the film's success goes to Kaneshiro, who is in every scene and never lets you forget why he is one of the world's most compelling big-screen stars. You simply can't take your eyes off him.
Aka Suwîto rein: Shinigami no seido.