Runin | Chicago Reader

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Japanese director Eiji Okuda follows up his erotic tragedy Shoujyo (2001) with another love story wrought with anguish, this one set in 1838. Exiled to a penal colony on an island off the Japanese coast, Kisaburo (Kazuhiro Nishijima) peers at the tides and plots escape. Longtime prisoner Toyogiku (Keiko Matsuzaka), a former courtesan and convicted arsonist, survives by whoring with a transvestite sidekick. Okuda makes an honorable bow to Akira Kurosawa's period epics with this 2004 drama, but the bond between Kisaburo and Toyogiku is upstaged by his more compelling depiction of the prisoners' efforts to survive on the desolate isle, and the outlaws-on-the-run ending is a letdown in its triteness. In Japanese with subtitles. 149 min.

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