Crime Or Punishment?!? is a title that manages to encapsulate the often coined wackiness of Japanese comedy, combining bright coloured candy visuals with the lewd absurdest humour of a early eighties John Waters midnight movie. This is a tale dripping in murder, sex and perversion and topped off with a cavalcade of character’s one would normally expect to find in a Takashii Miike joint. Quite how Crime Or Punishment?!? manages to work together at all let alone be entirely coherent is a miracle unto itself. Suffice it to say viewers familiar with the unhinged antics of Kera’s previous film Gumi.Chocolate.Pine will not be surprised that Crime Or Punishment!?! manages to inhabit a similar world where imaginations run wild and the likes of fate, consequence and bumbling bureaucrats seemingly play a role in the larger scope of things.
Told through a series of intersecting vignettes Crime Or Punishment largely revolves around a model turned Chief of Police, a trio of hapless criminals, and the death of a lonesome salary man that seemingly spurs many of the plots events into action. A Western equivalent, brought to mind in the opening minutes of the film is that of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. As previously mentioned, the themes of chaos and fate play a large role in the film, and in the simplest of terms one might argue that the screw-ball nature of Crime or Punishment is a commentary on how little control we have of our lives.
Unfortunately a lot of Crime Or Punishment’s meta commentary is lost in a flurry of Taser sex, squashed bugs and chainsaws as Kera’s direction frequently relies on the cheap thrills of it’s eccentric cast. For aficionados of the more hyper Asian comedies, Crime or Punishment?!? holds little originality, frequently relying on the cheeky tropes seen across a slew of j-comedies and variety hours. A lack of ability to coherently explain the plot of the film itself is a major downfall in its writing. Instead we bare witness to a bevy of unoriginal set pieces that whilst beautifully framed and photographed, often fall flat in delivery; frequently relying on the broad strokes of slapstick, instead of delivering a worthy punchline.
Crime Or Punishment?!? doesn’t feel especially new in its story or delivery, its collection of colourful characters provide just enough motivation to make it through the titles two hour runtime. By being framed as a Kafkaesque title in its opening minutes Crime or Punishment!?! at least succeeds in its goal of creating a title that feels familiar yet uninviting. Whilst the story suffers heavily from a general unevenness in its presentation, die hard J-Comedy fans will get their kicks from the madcap comedy and air of chaos permeating in every frame. Whilst literary fans will most certainly enjoy the title’s grand ambitions Crime or Punishment?!? only lives up to little more than a distraction leaving viewers with more questions than answers and sadly wanting to throw the book at all involved.