The latest feature from cult Japanese writer-director Sion Sono, Cold Fish is “yet another step in Sion Sono's rise as one of Japan's most consistently bold and intriguing film makers… [and] stands as one of the most powerful, punishing works to come out of Japan this year” (Twitch).
Inspired by and loosely based on the real-life exploits of serial killer couple Gen Sekine and his ex-wife Hiroko Kazama (the perpetrators of Tokyo’s notorious 1993 “Saitama serial murders of dog lovers” killings), the film is a psychotic cavalcade of sex, violence and comedy that has been hailed by Variety for its “gleeful humour and dare-you-to-watch aesthetic”.
Shamoto runs a small tropical fish shop. His second wife, Taeko, does not get along with his daughter, Mitsuko, and this worries him. One day Mitsuko is caught shoplifting at a grocery store. There they meet a friendly man named Murata, who helps to settle things between Mitsuko and the store manager. Since Murata also runs a tropical fish shop, Shamoto establishes a bond with him and they become friends; Mitsuko even begins working for Murata and living at his house. What Shamoto doesn’t know, however, is that Murata hides many dark secrets behind his friendly face. He sells cheap fish to his customers for high prices with his artful lies. If anyone detects his fraud or refuses to go along with his moneymaking schemes, they’re murdered and their bodies disposed of by Murata and his wife in grisly ways.
Shamoto is taken in by Murata’s tactics, and by the time he realizes that Murata is insane, and a serial killer who has made over fifty people disappear, he is powerless to do anything about it. But now Mitsuko is a hostage at Murata’s home and Shamoto himself has become the killer’s unwilling accomplice. Cruel murders gradually cripple his mind and finally the ordinary man is driven to the edge of the abyss.
Not for the squeamish or those easily offended by graphic images of sex and violence, Cold Fish is a compelling, slowburn thriller, peppered throughout with unexpected twists and surprises and, to quote Variety, “the last reel’s a doozy.”