Shamoto is a miserable man running a tropical fish store. His attractive wife Taeko won't have anything to do with him, and his daughter Mitsuko hates her stepmother and won't talk to him. One day, Mitsuko is caught shoplifting at a supermarket. When Shamoto and Taeko go to the store to get her and beg for forgiveness, a stranger named Yukio Murata intervenes and convinces the manager to let Mitsuko go. As a way of atonement, Murata convinces Shamoto to let his daughter work at Murata's store, which happens to be a much-nicer tropical fish store. Unfortunately, fish aren't the only thing Murata dabbles in.
I'll be honest with you folks. Before seeing this film, I'd never even heard of Sion Sono. And to be even more honest, given that the quote on the back of the DVD case had pegged this as "a Takashi Miike-inspired gore fest", I was hesitant to even see the film (I'm not the biggest Miike fan). But hey, I wouldn't be much of a reviewer if I didn't take chances for you guys, now would I? So, about COLD FISH.
Backing up the gobs of blood (and there's quite a bit) are some great characters and by extension, acting, with Mitsuru Fukikoshi as Shamoto being the one that sticks out the most. You feel sorry for the guy, having had everyone and the kitchen sink bully him into submission each and every time until he finally takes a stand in an apesh*t sort of way. But before that, Fukikoshi plays the man as being the timid, awkward type that's honestly quite sad to see. In contrast, Denden is the loud, boisterous Murata who has no conscience for what he does and it's scary.
The real dealbreaker is the film's first 30 minutes, which serve the important task of sucking you in. It's quite the workout on the nerves, especially since Sono keeps things at a slow-burning pace that it just builds. Heck, even the opening credits are done in such a unique way that you can't help but sit up and take notice. Sono also sought to throw in a bit of dark humour into the film, which is kind of hard to believe given the mean-spirited nature of the gore. But hey, it's there in a slippery chase scene where everything's seemingly covered in plasma.
For the negative, it could be argued that the runtime for the film could be trimmed. At 144 minutes long, this isn't one that you'd whip through in no time, especially given at times that this is a rather unpleasant character study. Also, while the first 30 minutes are a surefire attention grabber and really set things up for the rest of the movie, the rest of the film kind of feels like it's not sure what exactly to do with the attention. Maybe I'm just reaching, I don't know. But at the end of the day, this is still a great film, splatter and study combined. It might not be to everyone's taste, but it's still worth a look if you're interested in something different.
Video: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film looks pretty good, showing off some great colour. Despite that, the image is a bit dark at time, and as such darker areas tend to become murky. Still, this transfer looks quite good.
Audio: Accompanying the transfer is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese Surround track with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and crisp, with good use of surrounds when Murata snaps. Unfortunately, the film lacks action in the lower end of things, but what's here is fine. Also included is a 2.0 English Stereo dub, but ugh, it's a dub.
The sole extra for the film is an Interview with Director Sion Sono, which clocks in at 8 minutes. The interview sadly doesn't go into the detail that you'd hope would be discussed, but at eight minutes, what'd you expect? In the clip, Sono discusses how he went from being a poet to a filmmaker, then goes on to talk about the making of COLD FISH. Finally, he talks about the challenge of making a movie based on a true story.
COLD FISH isn't for everyone, but it does offer up an interesting character study that has the viewer glued to their TV wondering what happens next. There's also no shortage of the red stuff, which is also played up for laughs. The sole extra is kind of a disappointment, since if you want more bang for your buck, you'll have to seek out the UK version.