Hot off his big Palme d’Or win at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his lauded humanist drama “Shoplifters,” Japan’s beloved auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda is bringing a very different kind of film to American cinemas: his icy courtroom drama “The Third Murder.” The film debuted at Venice last year, where it signaled a change of pace for Kore-eda, who is best known for his deeply felt dramas that typically tackle interpersonal emotions and family upheavals.
That’s not to say that “The Third Murder” doesn’t smack of some Kore-eda mainstays, including a canny exploration of ethical quandaries, now filtered through a knotty criminal case. The film stars Kore-eda’s own “Like Father, Like Son” star Fukuyama Masaharu as elite lawyer Shigemori, who is tasked with defending aging ex-con Misumi (Yakusho Koji) on his second murder charge. Shigemori’s chances of winning the case aren’t great, mainly because Misumi keeps admitting to his crimes. But as he keeps exploring the case, Shigemori uncovers some unexpected truths that might change not only the trial, but his own perceptions.
The film won six awards at last year’s Awards of the Japanese Academy (like the Oscars), including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
In IndieWire’s Toronto review of the film from last year, David Ehrlich wrote that the film “insists that humans can’t judge one another, and that capital punishment is an inherently flawed practice. It tells us that class can tip the scales of justice at birth, and that the privileged need to ignore a whole lot of grim things in order to go about their business… [Kore-eda’s] latest movie flatters that perspective rather than testing it. It’s beautifully acted and trembles with truth, but it never gives us enough information to arrive at those conclusions on her own or deepen our belief in them.”
Check out our exclusive trailer and poster for “The Third Murder” below.
“The Third Murder” will be released in New York City on July 20 and Los Angeles on July 27, with additional markets to follow.