We all hear that story about how there's someone out there in the world who looks just like you. I, for one, am constantly mistaken for a guy who apparently lives merely a city away from me, and, from what I understand, is a generally decent fellow, for which I am grateful. After all, I'd hate to be mistaken for some jerk who terrorises the elderly or tortures small animals. Still, there's something a little scary about the fact that there's a "double" of ol' Head Cheeze running around out there. In Tartan Video's Doppelganger, the second in the company's new Asia Extreme line, that fear is given some credence.
When Dr. Michio Hayasaki (Yakusha), a brilliant robo-physicist, finds himself being dragged down by the demands of his job, and general disenchantment with his own life, he is suddenly confronted by his doppleganger; an exact double of him who shares all of the man's knowledge, but also harbours disdain for his weaker self's complacency. Soon the doppleganger is trashing Hayasaki's lab, which gets him fired from his job. Hayasaki seeks out a young woman (Nagasuku) whose brother has recently committed suicide as a result of encountering his own doppleganger, and the two work together to search for a way to rid Hayasaki of his destructive alter ego before he, too, is pushed over the edge.
Much like last year's Secret Window, Doppelganger is more of a psychodrama than a horror film. While Secret Window's protagonist created his alter-ego to do things he could never do himself, Doppelganger's Hayasaki has such a strong desire to change his life that his alter-ego is as much flesh and blood as he is, and does all of the things Hayasaki has always wanted to do, but was too afraid to do for fear of the consequences. The results are often humorous, sometimes touching, and, ultimately, a little sad, too. The performance by Koji Yakusha is very solid, and the actor plays the two Hayasaki's off of each other expertly, aided by director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's clever use of split-screen techniques.
On the downside, Doppelganger isn't a terrifically flashy film, as it features fairly modest production values, and, despite the Tartan label's declaration, there's nothing very "extreme" about it. It's a relatively tame movie, especially by Japanese standards. However, it's still a mildly entertaining psychological thriller, and the solid acting and story held my interest.
The DVD from Tartan Video features a short making-of featurette, an interview with director Kurosawa, trailers and TV spots for this and other Tartan Asia Extrem new releases, as well as a very nice DTS and 5.1 surround sound track and widescreen transfer.
Doppelganger is a film I'm sure will delight fans of Japanese cinema, as they will certainly appreciate the film's rather absurd sense of humour, as well as understand the more subtle intricacies that may be lost on those of us who haven't been exposed to Japan's more esoteric offerings.