Perfs are solid, but Fukugawa seems overwhelmed by the narrative's sprawl.

Too literary and far too long, Yoshihiro Fukugawa’s “Into the White Night” depicts a detective’s lifelong obsession with a seemingly insolvable crime. Perfs are solid, particularly from Eiichiro Funakoshi as the lead protagonist, but Fukugawa seems overwhelmed by the narrative’s sprawl. Skedded January domestic release will fare well thanks to the popularity of young co-stars Maki Horikita and Kengo Kora, but international prospects look iffy given pic’s dated style and confusing midsection. Korean auds may be keen to compare this with Park Shin-woo’s same-titled 2009 adaptation of the source novel by Keigo Higashino.

When an Osaka pawnbroker is found dead inside a bolted warehouse, few people care to mourn him, and there’s no obvious suspect. Middle-aged detective Sasagaki (Funakoshi) is assigned to the case, not realizing the murder will become a constant irritant over the next two decades. In a way that is initially unclear, two children — the pawnbroker’s emotionally suppressed son, Ryouji (played as an adult by Kora), and his mistress’ equally strange young daughter, Yuhiko (played as an adult by Horikita) — are the lynchpins in the mystery.

Opening setup and evocative perfs augur well, leading auds to expect a rollicking good whodunit. Unfortunately, the yarn becomes fragmented when it starts following the lives of the children, whose stories are told in a literary, almost fairy-tale fashion. Helmer Fukugawa, who previously impressed with “When the Show Tent Came to My Town” and the odd but engaging “Peeping Tom,” has trouble keeping these disparate elements connected, and as a result, too much of the film feels like a wayward digression.

Screenplay by Fukagawa, Shingo Irie and Akari Yamamoto may reward those who persevere, but ultimately, the resolution feels empty, and the film is undone by its clash of storytelling styles, flawed perfs from the younger thesps and overlong running time.

Lenser Koichi Ishii displays considerable versatility, endowing the early, dark scenes with a grimy magnetism, while the final stretch has a beautiful glitziness. Classy score by Mamiko Hirai accentuates piano and cello and adds a dignified layer to the proceedings. Other tech credits are pro.

Into the White Night

Japan

Production

A Gaga Corp. release of an "Into the White Night" Film Partners production. (International sales: Gaga Corp., Tokyo.) Produced by Satoka Kojima, Hiromi Honoki, Ryuta Inoue, Kazunari Hashiguchi. Executive producers, Nobuya Wazaki, Tom Yoda, Masahiko Mizuguchi, Koichi Inaba, Yoshitaka Hori, Kazuhiko Torishima, Tomoko Machida, Hiro Ishigaki, Satomi Odake, Atsushi Sugai, Hiroyuki Akune. Directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa. Screenplay, Fukagawa, Shingo Irie, Akari Yamamoto, based on the novel "Byakuyako" by Keigo Higashino.

Crew

Camera (color), Koichi Ishii; editor, Naoya Bando; music, Mamiko Hirai; production designer, Namiko Iwaki; sound (Dolby), Daisuke Hayashi. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Special Screening), Oct. 24, 2010. Running time: 149 MIN.

With

Maki Horikita, Kengo Kora, Eiichiro Funakoshi, Keiko Toda, Tetsushi Tanaka, Nobuo Kyo, Yurie Midori, Kumi Nakamura, Urara Awata, Yuki Imai, Shiori Fukumoto, Yorie Yamashita.

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