Miike is like a chameleon, but no ordinary one. While a chameleon changes color to blend in with his environment, Miike only sticks out. He has no fixed style, no typical characteristics, but still manages to make every film like a director with a unique style. He's like 4, 5, maybe 6 authors in one. Sun Scarred is one of his latest films, and even though it's the 45th Miike film I've seen, it's still very difficult to compare it to his other work.
I believe Sun Scarred is the first Miike film I've watched that strives for a certain level of credibility. Though thematically related to films like Fudoh and even Battle Royale, Miike's take on the subject is a lot more down to earth. It's bleak setup and subdued emotion make it all the more scary.
Miike regular Aikawa is leading the film, playing a father who's about to lose a lot. Though his actions might've been just, he ends up on the cover of every news paper, labeled as a criminal. Set up by a gang of juvenile delinquents, his battle for justice is one he cannot win as his opponents are firmly protected by the law. When the gang leader is back on his feet after hardly two years of doing time, Aikawa returns to get some answers.
While this could've easily turned into a simple revenge flick, Miike pursues a different approach. He puts the viewer right in between Aikawa and the gang leader, trying to raise sympathy for both, making it pretty hard to choose between the two of them. Miike actually puts forward a pretty big moral dilemma, again something not often seen in his films.
Visually his film is bleak and cold, even shifting to a silent black and white intermezzo at one point. From time to time a little sloppy in the details, but overall a pretty nice looking film with a couple of scenes that deserve extra praise. It's clear that Miike is constantly improving himself as a director, as a couple of years ago a film like this from his hands would've looked cheap and sleazy.
The sound design is even better, with brooding and dark ambient tones in the key scenes, making them quite scary en menacing at times. Something that helps both the atmosphere and the credibility of the film. All of this aids to establish an atmosphere which is quite uncomfortable to sit through.
Maybe Miike waited this long to make a film like this because the bleak outlook and styling really call for a different style of direction. His weirdness and wicked ideas would've felt out of place in Sun Scarred, and it's a good thing he's well aware of that. Even though the ending isn't as dark as it could've been, at that point the film has already settled in well enough and all points have come across.
Probably the scariest film Miike has ever made, though this is clearly no horror flick. Part drama, part subdued revenge, which a big finger pointing at the passive attitude of many instances and people in this film, the film impresses until the very end. It's not Miike's best, I still have a bigger soft spot for his weird stuff, but it's typical that he can pull off a film like this right out of the blue. The man's got talent, we probably just have to wait another 30 years before it will be widely recognized.
Want a little preview of the film, watch the trailer.