Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jmovie review: Confessions of a Dog/Pochi no kokuhaku

When I first read about this movie on Twitchfilm, I knew I had to get it. A movie about police corruption in Japan that was so close to the truth that it wasn't released there? If there is one thing that Jmovies need is more realism instead of the usual warped anime style world. Confessions of a Dog is an epic 3 hour movie about a big bear of a police officer, Takeda played masterfully by Sugata Shun. We see him in the beginning as an earnest and gentle soul who helps this young woman who his partner at the koban/police box tries to harrass. This earns him the attention of the police chief who promotes him to be a detective.

Takeda is loyal to a fault even up to letting the police chief decide his daughter's name. We see montages of Takeda doing the usual police work of catching criminals until we see him get involved in a suspicious police raid on Chinese gun smugglers where he drives away the buyer. Takeda is given money for his troubles and he writes in his diary that the money is a bonus and is not illegal. Five years later, he used to doing dirty work for the police and is completely transformed. The other two main characters of the movie are a newspaper photographer and the owner of a bar, Kusama who join forces to dig deep into police corruption but are met with resistance at every point not just by the police but by people who participate in the system.

The true story of Confessions of a Dog is a detailed look at how corruption in the police works. You get to see uniformed police working at the koban do stuff like harrass females and talk about having sex with them in exchange for letting them go. You have police selling drugs and staging fixed raids with the cooperation of foreign mafia in order to make themselves look good and get promoted.

Confessions of a Dog shows that probably the biggest obstacle to curbing the problem are the 'kisha clubs' where all the major newspapers copy and paste specially prepared police statements. Basically the newspapers are a tool for police propaganda and have completely no interest in provoking them. Even the tabloids and gossip magazines dare not invoke the wrath of the police. So much so that Kusama at the end had to go to the internet and foreign press in order to get his story out.

Confessions of a Dog is more of a study of the system of corruption where the police, politicians, media and courts are involved in a system of using fake justice to make money. Coming from a much more corrupt country though, what is shown in Confessions of a Dog is hardly surprising to me. Nothing in the movie beats the government abusing and killing suspects, opposition party members and Mongolian models and getting away with it.

While the performances are great, with the running time of 3 hours, it is not focused. The movie's main objective is to inform while entertaining takes a back seat. It should have been a stronger character study of Takeda slow descent into a fully corrupt cop. Yamazaki, who is 'related' to the chief and has an fantasy scene at the end would have made a great character study as well. Hints about his story and character are dropped throughout the series and I just wished the director would have spent more time hinting about how the corruption works and delved into the characters instead of the other way around. Its like the director purposely kept the characters at arms length from the viewers while I would have liked to get into the characters' heads more.

As a movie to entertain, Confessions of a Dog is lacking because its first concern is to inform and detail corrupt police practices. As a piece of social film making, it is a very brave one and but I wouldn't call it a must watch. I have to admit though, most the movie played like a join the police force promotional video. Join the police force and you get to blackmail girls for sex! Not only that, the police are very happy to pay off hush money for any allegations of rape!

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