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Takashi Miike is such an amazing guy. No, really. He has directed some 50 films in the last 10 years, with many figuring very highly in several top cult lists. His style is so diverse, at times unabashedly over the top, ultra violent, and perversely sexual, yet at other times, superbly contained, mature and powerfully mainstream. Is it possible for the same man to be one day one of this world's most controversial visual extremist terrorist with films such as Ichi The Killer (2001), Audition (1999), Dead Or Alive 1 (1999) or Visitor Q (2001), and the next day be a toughtful, careful dramatist with films such as Bird People Of China, The (1998), Graveyard Of Honor (2002), Guys From Paradise, The (2000), or this film. He is unique in his extreme style, the range of his movies, and his prolific output.
Inspector Ishida is a top hostage negotiator for the Tokyo police force who gets involved in a strange case one night when three hooligans (a Westerner, a Chinese and an Iranian) take an entire Hospital hostage after they robbed a local convenience store. But not all is at it seems when the night unfolds and we find out there is a lot more to this case than first meets the eye. Why did the three men rob a store and then took hostage the hospital? Some events in the timeline don't match. Are the men in the hospital and those who were at the store actually the same? These are the questions and unexpected avenues the team will have to explore.
This is a classic thriller that is full of smarts and twists and turns. You better not blink or you may miss an important part of the story which is edited in a creative way with lots of flashbacks and different perspectives on the same events. The writing is powerful with great attention to the characters. These are smart people who provide you with a great inside view of a hostage situation. As multiple Police departments pull together for the case, you witness various echelons of the force and how, for once, people pull together to resolve the case rather than fight their political battles. Genuine collaboration between smart people is always a pleasure to watch.
The film is technically very well done. This is Miike after all. Performances are all very good. The film is very well shot and although this was originally a TV movie, shows that the small budget was put to great use. The locations are rich and the overall art direction convincing. The only real flaw of the movie is the end which seems to drag on forever. After having masterfully woven the story together for almost 90mn, it's as if Miike got stuck for the last 15 minutes with a rather heavy-handed conclusion. This end could have been edited much better and wrapped in under a few minutes. This weighed heavily as a result on the direction, writing and editing aspects of the movie which otherwise were flawless.
Negotiator, The (2003) is definitely one of Miike's more mainstream movies, but as usual, it's done impeccably and it will pull you in. What the movie lacks in blood and sex, it makes up for with gripping performances, and a complex multi-layered story that is sure to stimulate you. This would have been easily an A movie if it weren't for the botched ending that dragged on forever and broke quite severely the momentum the movie had succeeded on building up all along.
- Laurent Hasson