Cold Fish review

SION SONO is never one to shy away from the wonderful. From Strange Circus to Love Exposure, there’s always an ability to amaze in his work.

So it comes as no surprise that in Cold Fish we have a stunning film that is equal parts family drama, thriller and outright brutal psychological horror.

Sono doesn’t shy away from anything in this tale of a father and husband who, in his quest to find happiness, finds himself in a world of depravity, murder and expensive exotic fish.

Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) lives with his daughter Matsuko (Hikari Kajiwara) and new wife Taeko (Megumi Kagurazaka) and runs a humble little exotic fish shop.

Not long into the film we get a brief flashback showing us, presumably, an incident at their home with Matsuko violently attacking her step-mother. It’s evident things aren’t going well between the new family.

When Matsuko is caught shoplifting, her father comes face to face with Murata (Denden). He’s a flash, brash successful businessman who owns a massive shop selling exotic fish from the Amazon.

Murata offers to give the wayward teen a job at his store – he tells Shamoto another six girls work and live there. “It’s like a dormitory…” he insists.

Taeko and Shamoto agree to the deal but Murata has his eye on more than just the daughter. After taking advantage of Taeko, he offers Shamoto the opportunity to become his business partner – a deal his young wife urges him to accept.

It’s at the midway point in the film when we finally understand what is going on with Murata and his beautiful wife.

During a deal with another businessman – who questions the figures being quoted for an Amazonian fish – Murata kills him and ropes the shocked Shamoto into driving them, with the body, to a remote shack.

Those of a nervous disposition should watch no further as the husband and wife proceed to dismember the body and dispose of the remains – while Shamoto tries not to throw up.

And when Murata finally places a mirror in front of the submissive Shamoto, showing him that he isn’t a strong-willed husband or father, well that’s when things go absolutely mental.

The last 40-odd minutes flash by in a blur up until the superb ending that just hammers home the message that people can’t live their lives without pain.

What Sono has created is a tale of morality, responsibility and authority.

Fukikoshi is brilliant as a man trying to make everyone happy but ultimately discovering no-one is. His attempts to go against everything Murata has shown him only magnify the fact that everyone else does what they are told.

And Denden, as Murata, is suitably insane and over-the-top without hamming up the role of a nutcase serial killer.

The fact the film is based on actual events, although the real crimes were committed against dog owners, helps give proceedings added shock-value – although Sono has taken liberties with other aspects of the story.

Cold Fish is bleak and a hard watch but in the end, turns out to be a thought-provoking tale of how people handle abuse (mental and physical) and the consequences suffered by those incapable of standing up for themselves.

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