LA Film Fest 2013: LESSON OF EVIL Review


Film Pulse Score

lesson of evil
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Release Date: TBD
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 7.5/10

Three words is all you will need to read that will likely generalize Takashi Miike’s latest film Lesson of the Evil.   If you’ve seen Miike’s other films then you will likely be able to surmise what you’ll be in for when you sit down to watch this film.  If you don’t know Miike’s work than just reading those words may give you pause and may make you reconsider watching it.  The film is shocking.  It’s stunning.  It’s brazen.  It will cause controversy.  It will be amazing if the film actually gets released in the States.  Enough, you say.  What’s the big deal you may ask.   Okay here it is.  MIIKE DOES COLOMBINE. 

English teacher Mr. Hasumi is very popular with the students and his coworkers.  His enthusiasm rubs off on his students and he manages to keep them engaged and learning.  His coworkers admire him for his dedication to the education of the children.  He goes so far as to implement a tech-savvy anti-cheating policy to help stem the cheating epidemic running rampant at the school.  He is very charming and approachable which is why the students find it easy to confide in him and seek his advice.  He seems like the ideal educator.  However there is more to this man than anyone could possibly realize.  Mr. Hasumi is a violent psychopath and there will be hell to pay should anyone cross him.

Miike takes a very restrained approach to allowing the story unfold.  In the first half we never really know who this guy is or what he is ultimately capable of.  We know that despite his charming demeanor he does have a dark side to him and that gradually comes to light as the film progresses.  In the second half all is revealed and the Miike we all know and love comes forth as he unleashes a prolonged sequence of violence that may even put Battle Royale to shame.

Ito Hideaki is excellent as Mr. Hasumi.  Like Hannibal Lecter you fear him but you just can’t hate him.  Charismatic, charming, handsome, likable.   Even when he goes on his killing rampage he still carries around with him a rather dark and playful sense of humor, if that is even possible.  But unlike Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, where you want the villain to win, you want Hasumi to be stopped but this is a Miike film and he’s not going to let the viewer off that easily.

Despite the controversy the film is very effective on many levels; dark comedy, horror, drama and exploitation.  Before all hell breaks loose it is very much like a seedier version of an after-school special.  Miike does a solid job of not playing his hand despite the fact that we already know what he’s holding.  However what we don’t expect is that ace up his sleeve that will either have you muffling chuckles, stunned in disbelief or heading for the door.  For this viewer it was a rather stunning sequence that was slightly uncomfortable.  It was very reminiscent of how I felt when reading the most shocking events in the novel Battle Royale.   This certainly isn’t a film for everyone.  If you are a fan of Miike than it is an absolute must see.  The subject matter may be too sensitive for Western audiences, which is why it will likely not see much of a release stateside. Miike delivers yet again and as the words “To Be Continued” flash on the screen here’s hoping he does.