|The Plot: We begin our film with feet. One pair of feet walking to another pair of feet in what looks like a bar. The first man begins making small talk with the other, they talk about going on vacation together as they walk along. They sit down at a table where we see a body in the background. The second man explains that someone was killed in this place, and that he did it. Come to find out, the body in the background is indeed dead – and is the head of a new crime family. The second man asks the first to help him dispose of the body. The man, friends for years with this other, reluctantly agree and they travel to a nearby mountain where they intend to dump the body. Problems arise however when a local cops stops them and asks to look in their trunk… when he does, there’s no one inside. The man must not have been dead! Now the two of them must track him down and finish the job… problem is, this guy’s armed – and he’s got a cellphone for backup.|
The Review: Ryuhei Kitamura is a name familiar with those who have been into Asian cinema for any considerable amount of time. He was the writer/director who brought the world Versus. When I first reviewed Versus and sat down with it many years ago; nothing on earth seemed as cool to me as that little film. Shot on super low budget with very little in regards to a plot – it was a film permeated by style and excess. Since then I am still shocked to see the occasional cat who didn’t dig it like I did – but I have come to accept it. Perhaps it was one of those films you simply had to “be there” to truly enjoy. Maybe I’m wrong for holding it in such high esteem and in memory due to it being one of my first forays into Japanese horror. Who knows, what I do know is that Kitamura is a director with tremendous talent who has demonstrated it more than one occasion. The amazing Azumi, my beloved Versus and I also enjoyed both Alive and Aragami. Heat After Dark was actually Kitamura’s first feature film – and in many ways you can see that when watching the film. However, for a first film, his style and hyper pacing was already very much evident. Heat After Dark feels like a trial run for Kitamura in preparation for his ultimate success in Versus. I hear his feature following this, Down From Hell, is actually like Versus-light with the gore effects and such – but Heat After Dark certainly shows off his ability to craft a story and intense action sequences with seemingly no budget at all. Heat After Dark may have no budget, but you can not tell me it looks that way. After watching the film, I was more impressed with the visual quality of the production (however, not the cleanest transfer of the film on my boot DVD) than I was with Versus which always looked like it had the budget that it did.
Coming in with a running time simply a few minutes shy of a full hour (around 57/58 minutes) Heat After Dark moves quick and the information is crammed in there. Essentially the whole “plot” of the film is simply meant to get out characters out into this vacated building and the field surrounding it so that they can shoot it out in many very cool ways. Like I mentioned above, this feature is more about the “cool” rather than the “gore”, so there really isn’t a whole lot of blood to be shown. Although it isn’t at the forefront as much as it might would be in any other feature; the comradery and care shown between the two characters in the film actually comes off as very poignant by the end of the film and I know I’ve been dismissing the plot up until now but you can really feel something for the characters if you allow yourself. That isn’t to go back on everything I have said so far, but it is a conflicted film in terms of its storytelling. There are a few questions left completely unresolved by the end of the film and there’s a pretty dramatic character change in the third half of the film that we as viewers would like to believe in – but unfortunately it just would not and could not happen that way with real human beings. If you see the film, you’ll more than likely understand where I am coming from with that. Still, the shootouts, cool clothes and generally “cool” atmosphere is the main selling point for the film and it sure does the job. Kitamura uses his visuals and the soundtrack together so perfectly in order to deliver some truly entertaining cinematic memories. Shotguns, machineguns and pistols galore as the characters jump in and out of danger while blasting at one another. For one hour worth of running time, you can’t find more exciting content!
Heat After Dark is a hard film to judge. It’s so entertaining I would feel it untrue to rate it so low, but on the other hand does it serve any purpose other than being a really “cool” experiment? Probably not. I’m going to have to give it a three out of five I suppose. Rating it a four might be too much, because I don’t know if I can honestly recommend everyone go out and buy the film unless they are a diehard Kitamura fan – and if so I wholeheartedly recommend it. However, if you’ve just seen Versus and you’re looking to expand your horizons, check out Azumi instead and go from there. Heat After Dark is a highly entertaining, if somewhat hollow, small film and if you are a Kitamura fan I would definitely pick it up. For you others, you might want to wait until you can rent it one of these days.