"Don't feel guilty about sitting and watching them suffer. You'll love every minute of it."

- Numskull

Nobody (1994)

Director: Shundo Ohkawa, Toshimichi Ohkawa

Producer: Tsugio Hattori, Seiichi Kyoda, Toshifumi Ogura

Writer: Shundo Ohkawa

Cast: Masaya Kato, Riki Takeuchi, Hideo Nakano, Jinpachi Nezu, Hiromi Nakajima, Yumi Nishiyama

Running Time: 100 min.

Plot: After a hostile confrontation with a trio of complete strangers in a bar, three businessmen seize a chance for revenge. However, they then find themselves playing a sinister mind game in which their very lives are at stake.


NUMSKULL'S REVIEW: Meet Taki, Nanbu, and Konishi: three advertising executives whose lives are about to be thrown into total chaos. Don't feel guilty about sitting and watching them suffer. You'll love every minute of it.

The setup is so simple, I could hardly believe the rest of the film turned out as well as it did. These three guys are sitting in a bar, and at the next table are three guys they don't know and have never seen before. One of them is wearing a watch which Nanbu makes a snide comment about. The guy hears it, looks right at Nanbu, and voices his displeasure. Nanbu doesn't apologize, and Rolex (as he comes to be known) is perfectly willing to let the matter escalate, but the other four men calm things down before any violence erupts. Nanbu's group leaves, but Konishi, the meekest of the three, forgets his umbrella (I guess that in Japan, unlike the USA, men aren't afraid to look faggy by carrying umbrellas) and goes back for it. Of course, he bumps into Rolex and his two friends. The three of them give Konishi a sound beating, and when Taki and Nanbu find their bloodied, pummeled friend, they swear to get even.

And then, things get a wee bit out of hand.

The trio's search for information about the three strangers...driven primarily by Nanbu, who is very much the vengeful type...produces more questions than answers. There comes a point at which they realize they are not hunters but prey. If there isn't something truly inhuman about these mystery men (and that possibility can't be ruled out), then they are, at the very least, masters of manipulation and mind games.

And so are the film's directors. For almost the entire film, I was constantly looking for clues and imagining them where they didn't exist, the answers to countless questions maddeningly out of reach. I kept trying to second-guess the script, mentally manufacturing outcomes to scenes I had just viewed, and it is a great testament to Shundo Ohkawa's work that I was pretty much always wrong. In fact, I only made one prediction of any significance that turned out to be correct, and friends, you can kiss the ugliest part of my ass if you think I'm telling you which one it was. The crown jewel of the movie in terms of keeping the tension high is a wordless sequence in which Nanbu finds himself being followed by a car whose driver, naturally, can't be seen. This isn't revolutionary film making, but a superb illustration of how skilled storytelling can make the viewer feel like they're watching something remarkable, even if they aren't. I honestly cannot recall the last time a film has made me so anxious to see what was going to happen next.

The version I saw was the DVD from Vanguard. The picture quality was pretty crummy, which actually sort of enhanced the experience. I kept double-checking the grainy backgrounds, making sure I hadn't missed something lurking in the shadows. Aside from that, my only complaints were a scene in which, due to the location, the sound of gunfire shouldn't go unnoticed but does, and the totally inappropriate, mood-killing song that plays during the credit roll. (This is something you'll get used to, though, after watching a few Japanese films, because they do it all the friggin' time.) The ending won't be up everyone's alley, but it worked just fine for me. I suspect that Nobody will provide a much weaker buzz upon subsequent viewings, but for the first time through, it earns a hearty recommendation.