Constantly on the hunt and suffering from hallucinations that drive his violent nature, an unnamed man is capturing women and savagely beating them to death. Meanwhile, a woman is luring men into a violent end, by way of her knife. Driven by the same force to make the opposite sex suffer, the killers’ fates intertwine. The two must face off in a battle to the death, in which they are forced to reveal the horrible truth behind their addiction to murder.
“Brutal” takes an interesting approach to its visuals, drawing heavy influence from Western “Grindhouse” films, using a filter to make the footage appear grainy, damaged, and with light and color fluctuations. Unfortunately, the visual styling ends up feeling misguided, as other than applying the filter it does not imitate any other aspects of the “Grindhouse” genre. Despite trying to dirty up the film, it is apparent it was shot on digital. The cinematography is also a step above most “Grindhouse” productions, with Takashi Hirose proving he has talent behind the camera. Exterior shots to those taking place in small spaces are all competently framed, lit, and transition well. The decision to add an effect on top of the work hurts the film’s imagery and even gives a sense of desperation to try to capture a certain type of nostalgia with the audience, instead of relying on its own strengths. It is unfortunate when one creative choice can hurt a production so much.
The story of “Brutal” is simple but effective, it does attempt some sort of social commentary about the violent nature of men and women, but it does not offer enough depth into the subject to justify the amount of violence on display. The film does end on a strong note with an interesting twist, with a reveal that is bound to gross some out, while giving others a chuckle. In spite of its simple nature, those who enjoy films that make them somewhat uncomfortable and enjoy the challenge of getting through some ultra-violence, “Brutal” poses a fun and entertaining challenge in that regard.
The acting is a pretty mixed, Takashi Nishina makes a brief appearance that is enjoyable and Butch Bigwave playing the unnamed male killer does a decent job of channeling the over the top violent archetype that fans of exploitation will appreciate. Ayano fails to capture the chaotic nature of her character, and the couple interjected into the story in order to add some commentary about the relationships between men and women, feels heavy-handed and tiresome. For the most part, the film feels like it was cast for friends and/or family with not as much consideration into the end product.
“Brutal” is successful in creating shock value, but beyond that, there is no real depth to the end product. Some poor creative choices and a script that seems slightly misguided, make the film rather forgettable. In spite of its shortcomings, the movie should create some interest in director Takashi Hirose. This production shows he has the talent and the potential to become a notable name within extreme Japanese cinema. Unfortunately, “Brutal” is unlikely to be the film to put him on the map.