Takashi Miike always surprises, and constantly flipflops between genres – sometimes within the same film. Lately, he likes to remake manga (Terraformars, Blade of the Immortal), and now the novel by Keigo Higoshino. In Laplace’s Witch, advanced science and math are suspected as the main causes in two inexplicable deaths. Evidence seems to point to the strange Madoka (Suzu Hirose – no stranger to Fantasia audiences (Rage, Chihayafuru 1 & 2)), but she is only the tip of the iceberg. Professor Aoe (Sho Sakurai, of hugely successful boyband Arashi) partners with her as well as an eager detective to uncover an even more unusual case. Mind-over-matter science, and pre-meditated murder are at play.
Weighted pauses and wisecracks about an underrated movie director (inside jokes to Miike’s longtime fans) create the cheeky humor that bolsters the otherwise very slow and talky detective investigation. Overlong sequences and a super cheesy ending even by Miike standards, this may not be the most well paced of his repertoire. The good news is, the sets and lighting are aesthetically pleasing. Hirose, a delight on any screen she graces, does an excellent job, and her cast-mates give solid performances. But all in all, the denouement is weak, and we are left with questions unanswered in favor of flash and silliness. The story itself is strong, but lazily executed. Miike may have either rushed the climax in favor of a spectacular-looking end sequence (in an amazing abandoned, dilapidated structure), or tried to incorporate the sharp turns in plot and style that he was once famous for with earlier works like Dead or Alive and Audition. If only we could cut out a good 20-30 minutes of the first half of the film, to put the extra screen time to proper use in the second half, there might be something better here.
Laplace’s Witch – sorry, there was just one screening!