Retribution (Sakebi) (2006)

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Released 14-Feb-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Alternate Ending
Interviews-Crew-Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye trailers x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 99:57
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Madman Entertainment
Starring Kôji Yakusho
Manami Konishi
Tsuyoshi Ihara
Riona Hazuki
Jô Odagiri
Ryo Kase
Hiroyuki Hirayama
Kaoru Okunuki
Ikuji Nakamura
Hironobu Nomura
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Kuniaki Haishima

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     A woman in a red dress is murdered in Tokyo; she is drowned in a shallow pool of salt water on land being reclaimed from the sea. Detective Yoshioka (Koji Yakusho) is part of the investigating team but clues start to link him to the murder although he pleads his innocence. Before long the ghost of the dead woman starts to appear to Yoshioka, although he is adamant that he does not know her and had nothing to do with her death. Then other murders occur using the same modus operandi of drowning in salt water; a father kills his son, a woman her lover, the woman admitting to Yoshioka that she too has seen the woman in red. As Yoshioka struggles to work out the connection between the murders, past and present mingle and the truth edges closer with memory and retribution not far away.

     Retribution (original title Sakebi) is a horror film, a ghost story and a gritty psychological thriller that relies upon atmosphere, character and plot rather than cheap shocks. The murders are quick and blood and gore pretty much absent. Instead, the film makes frequent use of bright light sources behind the actors, mirrors, curtains, and diffused light half hiding characters to give an alienating, disoriented, almost hypnotic mood. It also uses a dark, grimy colour palate with browns dominating, long static shots and a sparse sound design to create its atmosphere; music is used meagrely and the film illustrates how silence does indeed create palpable tension.

     As Yoshioka, Koji Yakusho is wonderful. While other characters are good, such as Manami Konishi as his girlfriend Harue or Tsuyoshi Ihara as a fellow policeman, it is really Yakusho’s show. He is grizzled, dishevelled and confused by what is happening, and as the film is seen through his eyes, and he is never off screen, we see what he sees and share his confusion. When he is adamant that he does not know the woman in red, we believe him, not without reason. But while we see things through his eyes, and follow his investigations, we do not see into his mind, which is where the truth really lies.

     Retribution was written / directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to director Akira Kurosawa) and he is building up an impressive J-horror resume with films such Cure (1997) or Pulse (2001). In Retribution he pulls off a film that succeeds for most of its running length to be engrossing, hypnotic, engaging and which almost makes sense. It is an atmospheric film, with impressive colour and sound design and a terrific central performance by Koji Yakusho. If you like your thrills to be of the slow burning psychological kind rather than cheap shocks, or Kurosawa’s earlier films, Retribution is definitely worth seeking out.

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Transfer Quality


     Retribution is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio was 1.85:1.

     This is a film of darkness, mirrors and shadows, with a deliberately gritty look. As noted above, many sequences are shot with a bright light source behind the actors, giving a soft diffused look to the print. Blacks are OK and shadow detail can be indistinct at times, which is probably deliberate. Colours are very muted, dull browns mostly, with the red dress a vibrant highlight when it appears (harking back to that horror classic Don’t Look Now (1973)). Contrast and brightness is consistent. There is evidence of edge enhancement, grain and some aliasing (26:09 – :19) but dirt marks were absent.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

     The English subtitles are in a yellow font in American English. They appear timely and I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a choice of Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0, surround encoded.

     I listened to the 5.1 and sampled the 2.0 which was recorded at a slightly higher level and appeared a bit sharper, as opposed to the balance and depth of the 5.1. That said, this is a muted audio track, quite deliberately as it is a film which uses silence to create tension. Dialogue is clean and centred and the surrounds do weigh in with some ambient sound and music. The subwoofer basically had the night off.

     The music by Kuniaki Haishima is very minimalist, with few obvious cues. As such it fits perfectly into the sound design of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (15:53)

     The director speaks in Japanese about planning, scripting, location and some aspects of the production, interspersed with some behind the scenes footage and film clips. He is a very entertaining speaker, and this is one case where I wished there was more as he really does not discuss what the film is about, or why the film looks as it does. (Note: the inside of the DVD cover does include some information about Kurosawa and some of his comments about the film).

Alternative Ending (4:09)

     Rough cut featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The one used in the film is far better, providing less of an explanation.

Theatrical Trailer (1:56)

Stills Gallery

     17 film stills. Silent, use the remote to advance.

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Trailers for other films from Madman. Included is Pulse (1:50), Reincarnation (1:26), Infection (1:35) and Premonition (1:37).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 3 Japanese release includes a making of, trailers, interviews with director and crew and the film premier, but as far as I can see there are no English subtitles. The Region 1 US release, based on reviews, also contains the making of, interview with the director and the alternative ending, and is in 1.85:1. This would seem to be the best version for English speakers if your system will allow Region 1 discs. Otherwise, the Region 4 is fine.


     Retribution is a horror film, a ghost story and a gritty psychological thriller that relies upon atmosphere, character and plot. If you like your thrills to be of the slow burning psychological kind, Retribution is definitely worth seeking out.

     The video and audio are acceptable. Extras are limited, but the interview is interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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