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Another Heaven
2000 - R - 132 Mins.
Director: Jôji Iida
Producer: Shinya Kawai,Makoto Ishihara
Written By: Jôji Iida
Starring: Yosuke Eguchi, Miwako Ichikawa, Yoshio Harada, Takashi Kashiwabara, Yukiko Okamoto, Taro Suwa, Haruhiko Kat
Review by: David Rolston

Am I Riggs or Murtaugh?
The opening sequence of “Another Heaven” establishes the stock characters around which this uneven Japanese horror thriller revolves. We meet the handsome but troubled young detective Manabu Hayase, his cynical world-weary senior partner Tobitaka, and Dr. Akagi the torpid medical examiner. It seems the entire Tokyo police force has convened upon this grizzly crime scene, where thanks to one of the numerous pratfalls of the film, we soon discover that the victim was not only murdered, but is missing a brain. While the principle actors play it relatively straight, the rest of the actors ham it up as if they were guest stars in a three stooges feature, slapping and punching each other, mugging for the camera, yelling hysterically at the top of their lungs and reacting to each new level of crisis with all the reserve of a girl scout troop hopped up on a carton of Jell-O mix.

Naturally the mayhem escalates as additional victims are found, and this sets our Detectives on an increasingly manic and cliché filled course where predictably they must break all the rules in pursuit of the elusive perpetrator of what quickly becomes a string of horrific murders. One wonders exactly how we are meant to react however, when more often then not the murders are presented in a way that makes them seem more comical than frightening.

Would it surprise you to find that before long the Serial killer has engaged the handsome young detective Hayase in a game of cat and mouse, and is soon calling the detective on his cell phone, and leaving messages on the wall written in the victims blood, in order I suppose to make this all very personal?

Before too long we’re introduced to the Ingénue Asako, a ditzy street urchin with big doe eyes, and a level of denial that borders on psychosis. No matter how many times Manabu throws her out of his apartment, no matter how many times he hangs up on her phone calls, berates her for her silly feminine observations, or orders her to stay out of his life for good, she manages to reappear in his apartment to comfort him in his latest moment of diffidence before the blood of the killer’s latest victim has dried on the nearest wall. She also turns out to be incredibly gifted at intuiting the identity of the criminal, although her reasoning rarely stands up to subsequent analysis.

The half-baked supernatural premise that drives the last two thirds of the film has been executed with far more finesse in other films which precede it like the sci-fi romp “The Hidden” or the Denzel Washington vehicle “Fallen” both of which Another Heaven seems to have borrowed from extensively. While there’s action a plenty, and some skillfully executed chase sequences, what’s entirely missing is any sort of compliance with reasonable tonal boundaries. “Another Heaven” careens from suspense to horror to action to slapstick to melodrama often within the same scene. It’s fair to say that “Another Heaven” even with a generous two hour plus running time is often bursting at the seams with all the plot twists, theories, explanations, setups and reversals, while at the same time never seeming to shake the sense of derivation that permeates. The characters never manage to escape their archetypes, and it’s hard to care much what happens to them, or feel any empathy with their predicament. Despite these faults, the principle actors appear for the most part to soldier bravely through their performances despite the contrived plot twists and often-meandering dialogue.

The conclusion attempts to foist an entirely unearned coda of lugubrious pseudo philosophy and moralizing, as if it actually expects us to have forgive the previous 125 minutes of cacophonous nonsensical mayhem.

“Another Heaven” was a box office hit in Japan, has been making the rounds of US cable networks, and is also available in the states on video and DVD. While the adventurous genre blending is commendable, there’s simply not enough logic to sustain writer director Jôji Iida’s film, no matter how stylish and fast paced “Another Heaven” sometimes manages to be.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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