In a refreshing change of pace from his usual family-drama offerings (2013’s Like Father, Like Son, 2015’s Our Little Sister and 2016’s After the Storm), writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda takes a rare detour into the legal-thriller genre.
In The Third Murder, the story begins promisingly with Misumi (Koji Yakusho) murdered his former boss in cold blood by the river bank and set him on fire. He was eventually arrested and even has no problem committing the crime. Then along came his defence attorney led by Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama), whose job is to get his inevitable death sentence reduced to life in prison. However, he soon discovers that Misumi’s testimony is plagued with inconsistencies.
No doubt the story has lots of potential and Kore-eda could have gone the mainstream route, especially given the commercial-friendly appeal of the aforementioned genre.
But The Third Murder isn’t your average legal thriller. Instead, he chose to deconstruct the familiar genre inside out that is more cerebral than conventionally cinematic. The overall pace is deliberately cold and truly a slow burner. The kind of movie that demands both of your utmost patience and attention at the same time.
Whereas a slow-burn movie can be absorbing if done right, I am disappointed to say that Kore-eda’s metaphysical approach to The Third Murder is mostly a turn-off. While the narrative is plodding, Masaharu Fukuyama and Koji Yakusho are both engaging with their respective performances.