NYAFF REVIEW: ‘Twisted Justice’ is an epic tale of crime, drugs, power

Courtesy of NYAFF
Courtesy of NYAFF

With Twisted Justice, director Kazuya Shiraishi has crafted an epic crime thriller that pulsates with energy and verve. The movie, which is based on a true story, will open the New York Asian Film Festival Wednesday, June 22 at 7 p.m.

Go Ayano plays a wannabe police detective who quickly rises through the ranks of the Hokkaido Police Department. To climb his way to the top, Moroboshi (Ayano) essentially becomes a crime syndicate unto himself. He will do anything to bring in more guns for his bosses at the police department, and with each new confiscated gun comes the silly justification that the police are reducing violent crime on the streets. The problem — and it’s a big one — is that Moroboshi leaves a crime-laden trail in his wake, and in his pursuit of public safety he breaks every rule and becomes the antithesis of what the public believes him to be.

Ayano’s performance is scarily good as the lead detective. He starts out as a top wrestler who gets a name for himself, and this leads him to be selected as a police detective. They are looking for someone who can be tough — that’s it. His lack of education in police matters doesn’t pose a problem for the top brass.

On the job, he follows in the footsteps of Murai (Pierre Taki), a crooked detective who enjoys womanizing and breaking the rules. Murai has the air of a crime boss, someone who is as immoral as the Japanese organized crime operations. The older detective teaches the newbie the value of spies, the need to keep the bosses happy with gun receipts and the carnal joys of the illegal life.

Moroboshi may balk for a second, but it’s a hot second. Instead, the young recruit dives headlong into the underworld and in short time replaces Murai to become the big police officer in the neighborhood. Moroboshi brokers deals that seemingly keeps everyone happy, and the detective enjoys the spoils of his bargaining. From one-night stands to partying late to getting addicted to speed, the detective’s actions take him spiraling out of control, and whatever moral compass he had to start with is broken and thrown out the window.

Twisted Justice will open the New York Asian Film Festival. Photo courtesy of © 2016 TWISTED JUSTICE Film Partners.
Twisted Justice, starring Go Ayano, will open the New York Asian Film Festival. Photo courtesy of © 2016 TWISTED JUSTICE Film Partners.

Shiraishi has the action play out in a energized, madcap manner. Over the course of 135 minutes, Moroboshi hardly stops to take a breath. He longs for power and standing in this broken world of thieves, dealers and people attracted to money. In some ways, Twisted Justice begins as a period comedy, highlighting some of the excesses of the 1980s and the cinematic cliches of the gangster life. As the years progress into the 21st century, Shiraishi has Moroboshi’s story become darker and darker. By the end, Moroboshi has become someone akin to a Shakespearean character, unable to stop himself and wholly different from the person he was before.

The supporting actors are top-notch in this crime thriller. From Moroboshi’s bosses at the police department who become increasingly uneasy with the detective’s antics to Taki as Murai, the wizened man on the job, the ensemble makes this a solid film of quality acting. However, they pale in comparison to the towering performance of Ayano. There is hardly a second when Ayano’s character is not on screen, and the audience sees him in all of his perceived glory and deepest doldrums. He works the streets, set to a catchy soundtrack of tunes, like a gangster. He struggles to have relationships with women outside of his sexual encounters. He refuses to try speed, even though his daily activities deal with the selling and importing of the drug. However, he eventually drops that abstinence and becomes hooked like the people he used to shake his head at.

Twisted Justice, which is the opening-night film at the New York Asian Film Festival, is a scorching tale of criminality and justice told with palpable passion and fervor. Its director and lead actor should be commended for such a harrowing tale.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Twisted Justice will play at the New York Asian Film Festival June 22 at 7 p.m. and June 28 at 6 p.m. at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Click here for more information.

  • Twisted Justice
  • In Japanese with English subtitles
  • 2016
  • Directed by Kazuya Shiraishi
  • Written by Jun’ya Ikegami; based on the book by Yoshiaki Inaba
  • Starring Go Ayano and Pierre Taki
  • Running time: 135 minutes
  • Rating: ★★★★

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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