films seen
average score
Japan - 49 years old
Alive and kicking
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One of Japan's leading crime and thriller directors. Shiraishi has a penchant for gritty settings and rough, troubled characters. He hasn't really made a name for himself in the West yet, but he's worth seeking out if you like a bit of grit.


Birds Without Names

Kanojo ga Sono Na wo Shiranai Toritachi
2017 / 123m - Japan
Drama, Mystery
Birds Without Names poster

An impressive, edgy drama with strong thriller influences. Tricky characters and a veiled narrative keep things interesting, while the acting, score and camera work make for a tense atmosphere. Shiraishi has worked himself up become to one of the leading drama directors in Japan, Birds Without Names is proof of his talent.

Lesson in Murder

Shikei ni Itaru Yamai
2022 / 128m - Japan
Lesson in Murder poster

Kazuya Shiraishi doing what he does best: digging into the creepy crevices of the human mind. Regardless of genre, Shiraishi always finds characters that are deeply unrooted and struggling to fit in, and Lesson in Murder is no exception. I kinda like his approach, so it's no surprise I ended up liking this film.

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Masaya returns home for the funeral of his grandma. He receives a letter from a former baker who is spending his time on death row, convicted for 8 murders of minors. Masaya used to frequent his bakery and is intrigued by the letter, what he learns from the man piques his interest even more.

The performances are great, Sadao Abe in particular is really creepy. The plot kept my interest, Shiraishi's style is very fitting and there's a tangible darkness that runs throughout the film. What Lesson in Murder lacks is something that makes it stand out from the crowd, it's a bit too familiar in places. Overall though, I had a pretty good time with it.

The Blood of Wolves II

Korô no Chi: Level 2
2021 / 149m - Japan
The Blood of Wolves II poster

Kazuya Shiraishi delivers a worthy sequel to his first Yakuza epic, further establishing himself as a strong crime director. This second film offers more of the same, so I'd suggest not watching them too closely together, but when you're in the mood for some gritty crime drama, this film delivers.

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A couple of years after the first film, crime has settled down in Hiroshima. Things start heating up again when Shigehiro Uebayashi is released from prison. He doesn't care much for the truce of his bosses and starts a rampage of his own. The police are surprisingly lenient, so much that detective Hioka begins to suspect something fishy is going on.

Performances are solid, the action is pretty brutal and the setup is intricate. My only issue with this series is that it doesn't really deliver something new. If you're familiar with the genre then Blood of Wolves won't have any surprises for you. The execution is spot on though, so genre fans can rejoice.

One Night

2019 / 123m - Japan
One Night poster

Kazuya Shiraishi is quickly establishing himself as one of the leading directors of dark, Japanese dramas. While most of his films balance on the edge between extremely solid filler and minor masterpiece, they never disappoint and always bring something interesting to the table. One Night is no exception.

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It tells the story of a mother who kills her husband in order to safeguard her three children from his abuse. Regardless of her sacrifice, the three are left behind with serious traumas. When they reunite 15 years later, it's obvious that the events of that one night have influenced their lives to a large degree.

It's the kind of setup you'd expect from a Shiraishi film, and he handles it appropriately. Performances are strong, the cinematography is grim but not unpleasant and the drama is allowed to thrive. It just lacks that tiny bit of polish to turn it into a certified masterpiece. Well recommended for fans of Japanese drama.

Sea of Revival

Nagi Machi
2019 / 124m - Japan
Drama, Crime
Sea of Revival poster

A trademark Kazuya Shiraishi film. Dark, gritty, strong crime elements mixed with drama and severely unlikable characters. It's not for everybody, but Shiraishi has a way to bring these films to life. Sea of Revival may not be his most notable film to date, it's certainly one of his most recognizable.

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Ikuo and Ayumi return to Ayumi's hometown as Ikuo landed a job there, working for a printing company. Ikuo has a gambling addiction and though he promised Ayumi to better his life, when two of his colleagues invite him along Ikuo can't decline. It's the start of a negative spiral that is going to have far-reaching consequences.

Ikuo may be a troubled character and the film loves to dish out tragedy, still, there's a crude and fundamental warmth running underneath that kept me engaged. Performances are strong, the cinematography is fitting, and the plot supports the drama well. The only problem is that the film's is a bit long, it really didn't need to last 2+ hours. Other than that, a very solid Shiraishi.

Dare to Stop Us

Tomerareru Ka, Oretachi O
2018 / 119m - Japan
Dare to Stop Us poster

Films about films are rarely very good, but Shiraishi's take on the rise of Wakamatsu and his production company is definitely worth a gamble. Well acted, fun to see so many references to famous Wakamatsu films and some nice insights into the role of Adachi. Familiarity with the directors and subject matter is a real plus though.

The Blood of Wolves

Korô no Chi
2018 / 126m - Japan
The Blood of Wolves poster

Shiraishi goes oldskool Yakuza. The Blood of Wolves is a film that will feel very familiar to fans of Japanese crime cinema, but to see it through Shiraishi's filter does give it a fresh and contemporary edge. Just don't expect a film that will reinvent the genre, as you won't find it there.

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We're not just looking at a simple clan war though, Shiraishi focuses more on role of the police and how they try to uphold a muddy balance between the different clans, in order to avoid outright wars and public chaos. It's not the first Yakuza film to take this angle, but it is one of the better ones I've seen so far.

The cast is excellent (Kôji Yakusho, Renji Ishibashi, Tomorô Taguchi, just to name a few), the violence is raw, the cinematography gritty and vibrant. The film may lack something that truly sets it apart, but this is once again a quality project that underlines Shiraishi's talent and establishes him as one of the more interesting directors working in Japan today.

Dawn of the Felines

2017 / 84m - Japan
Dawn of the Felines poster

A fine acquaintance with Shiraishi. The film starts off exquisitely and for a while it looked like this was going to be an amazing drama, but after 15 minutes or so it gets a little quirkier. It's a shame because it doesn't quite fit the mood, but that doesn't take away from the amazing potential on display here.

Twisted Justice

Nihon De Ichiban Warui Yatsura
2016 / 135m - Japan
Twisted Justice poster

You can't really pin Shiraishi down to a single genre, but the man clearly love a good, gritty crime flick. Twisted Justice is another decade-spanning crime epic about a crooked cop in the Hokkaido police. It's not a very original film, the only real surprise is that Shiraishi put a modern spin on the soundtrack.

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Moroboshi is a young cop who just joined the Hokkaido police force, ready to make the world a better place. He'll quickly learn that things aren't that clear-cut out there. His colleagues cheat and bribe their way to success, and it doesn't take long before Moroboshi picks up a couple of their tricks.

Go Ayano's performance is great, the build-up of the film is strong, and the score is pretty interesting. It's still a very typical crooked cop/Yakuza crime flick, and it's not a film that is going to turn the genre upside down, but it's clear that Shiraishi has a real feel for the genre. So far, he hasn't disappointed me yet.

The Devil's Path

2013 / 128m - Japan
The Devil's Path poster

A pretty typical Kazuya Shiraishi. It's not a true Yakuza epic, instead the film focuses on a lower (but not less dangerous) gang of criminals who prey on older/needy people. It's a rather grim story with lots of unpleasant characters, then again that's what makes Shiraishi's films stand out.

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A death row prisoner (Sudo) contacts a journalist, telling him he has a few extra confessions to make. By informing the journalist, he hopes to incriminate his former partner and boss, as he double-crossed Sudo and made him kill his best friend. But evidence is sparse and the journalist has to carry out his own investigation if he wants to uncover the truth.

The presentation is a little dry, but the film is carried by several stand-out performances. Takayuki Yamada, Lily Franky and Pierre Taki all are superb and give the film that gritty edge it so desperately seeks. If it had been a bit shorter and had a little extra polish this could've been a minor masterpiece, as it is now it's still a very dark and worthy crime flick.