Leisurely and lovingly observed character study about a detective, his home life, and a crook who plays cat-burglar-and-mouse with the cop. It's basically a crime thriller in the style of Yasujiro Ozu, whose stillness must have influenced first-time helmer Izuru Narushima. Its nature may prove too parochial to travel well.

Despite generic Anglo title, “The Hunter and the Hunted” is a leisurely and lovingly observed character study about a detective, his home life, and a crook who plays cat-burglar-and-mouse with the cop. It’s basically a crime thriller in the style of Yasujiro Ozu, whose stillness must have influenced first-time helmer Izuru Narushima. Pic is given a leg up by two of Japan’s hottest leads, both known from international hits “Shall We Dance?” and “The Eel,” although its nature may prove too parochial to travel well.

Handsome Koji Yakusho plays small-town detective Jin, raising his young daughter alone, and pic covers a decade, following parallel paths with the girl (Yui Natsukawa plays the teenaged version) — for whom he sacrifices a perfectly good thing with her teacher — and his odd connection to Neko (Akira Emoto), a previously flawless thief who loves leaving clues for Jin. Action runs slow by crime-flick standards, and motivations are left unexplored, except for some intriguing flashbacks into Neko’s tough childhood. But fine thesping and accretion of details make pic a haunting experience. Spare music, often centering on acoustic guitar and piano, supports autumnal feel.

The Hunter and the Hunted

Japan

Production

A Groove Corp. (Tokyo) production. Produced by Setsuko Matsuba, Satoshi Fukushima. Executive producers, Akira Narisawa, Kazuhiko Kosahara. Directed by Izuru Narushima. Screenplay, Yoshiko Kaomatsu, Satoshi Fukushima, based on novel "Tsukamaeruyatsu Nigeruyatsu," by Satoshi Iizuka;

Crew

Camera (color), Roku Naganuma; editor, Yoshiyuki Okuhara; music, Chero Club. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (Made in Japan), Nov. 6, 2003. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Koji Yakusho, Akira Emoto, Yui Natsukawa, Eiji Okuda, Masahiko Tsugawa.
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