DVD Random 11

DVD Random 11
DVD Random 11

Rating: 7.3
Genres: Mystery | Thriller
Director: Tony Sebastian Ukpo
Writers: Tony Sebastian Ukpo
Stars: Haruka Abe, Junichi Kajioka, Vera Chok
Prodigy detective Mitsuko Unagi is on the hunt for a notorious serial killer known only as “Eleven”. 10 years earlier, on February 29th 2006, a series of murders began, involving 11 randomly selected victims killed simultaneously in various parts of Tokyo. The killings continue over the next decade, leaving the police with no evidence, no witnesses, and the killer always one step ahead. But now something has changed, and the killer has changed his pattern, giving Detective Unagi the one chance to finally get closer to solving the mystery of the Random 11. Written by vh
Plot Keywords: serial killer, pattern, mass suicide, lists, polaroid photograph
Country: UK


  1. Random 11 is a very strange film. Most of the film is in Japanese with English subtitles…yet it was filmed in London. And, to make things weirder, the writer/director is a Nigerian-born Brit, Tony Ukpo! That is certainly one of the most unusual pedigrees I have ever seen. It's also strange because when it ends, you learn that it's only part 1—the conclusion is to come in a future effort.

    The film is set in Japan. A small task force headed by the brilliant and very young woman, Mitsuko (Haruka Abe) is trying to locate a bizarre and very repetitive serial killer. So far, 11 people each time are found dead throughout the country and each appears to have killed tphemselves at the same time. The man responsible for this is proud of his work and not only taunts the police but gives them clues as well— like it's all some game. While Mitsuko is very good as her job and seems to be able to peer into the mind of the killer (and reminds me a lot of Will Graham from the Hannibal TV show), she isn't able to predict his actions completely—and the higher ups that the police force are losing patience with her. After all, so far 22 people have died and they know more are coming.

    Mitsuko's theory is that the killer is some sort of genius at hypnosis and can use these skills, somehow, to make people do his bidding—even if that means killing themselves. While many people will no doubt find this pretty exciting, to me it's problematic. I am a retired psychotherapist with training in hypnosis. Had I been able to use these powers for evil, you can pretty much bet I would have! But often films greatly exaggerate hypnosis and make it seem almost magical—which took me out of the moment with the film. Now this isn't to say I hated the film—it is interesting and unusual in many ways. It's just that the hypnosis angle has been overdone in a lot of films and really makes little sense if you know much about its limitations—and there are many.

    The final portion of the film is set in London, as the killer has inexplicably changes locales. Mitsuko then is teamed with a British detective and they go in search of not just the killer but the folks they think might be his next victim. The film ends with a confrontation between the killer (who seems to be a real fan of the female detective) and Mitsuko—at which point you see a message on the screen telling you to stay tuned for part two. The film is generally engaging and well made. A few times there are logical leaps (such as when the non-Japanese speaking lady is told by Mitsuko to go the information desk to request a car ride home….but she doesn't speak the language as well as several times when Misuko's deductions seemed too much out of left field). But for fans of crime films, it's well worth seeing and is different.

  2. Prodigy detective Mitsuko Unagi has been on the hunt for a notorious serial killer known only as "Eleven" since she was 12 years old. On Feb 29th 1996 in Tokyo, Japan, 11 people were killed at 12:25am in different parts of the city. They were all killed in a ritualistic fashion. The authorities were notified of the crimes after receiving Polaroid photos of each victim. 10 years later, after a repeated string of serial murders, the authorities receive 11 photos of another random selection of people.

    By chance I've seen a couple of Tony Ukpo's films (shorts mostly) and got interested in his films, particularly since several ones in the bag and due in the near future seemed ambitious and I was drawn to this quality. Random 11 was one such feature film since it involves a serial killer working over decades with strange almost supernatural killings which span a couple of continents – a bit harder than making a short film with 2 actors on one set for example. While ambition is to be applauded, here it appears to have been a case of Ukpo's eyes being bigger than his belly (to use Ulster-Scots) because in reaching for more, the film lets fundamentals slip and sadly weakens the whole. Just to mention it up front, one such example is the fact that, at the end of the film, it is announced that this has only been part 1; again a gutsy move to try to make this movie never mind only make it part 1, but it did hurt me to not have closure and instead be pointed to another film which right now doesn't exist.

    It bothered me more because on the basis of this I really didn't fancy too much more story because the story is one of the weaker aspects. At a high level it engages and, although not particularly well explained, at the start it did hook me in. As it goes on though, there is less and less substance to it and things seem to be deducted or explained "just because". The rules are never really understood fully (which I get is part of it being just a theory about the pattern and a mystery) but the film carried itself as a much more serious and mature film. It probably didn't help that I am currently watching season 3 of Forbrydelsen, as the contrast with how well that show does similar twisty and dark crime with a female lead was not a good one to have in my mind. On the positive side though, part of the reason the lack of cohesion in the story is so apparent is because the dark and serious tone is mostly well done. At times I thought it pushed it a bit too heavily, but generally the spirit of the film and the delivery is good and I liked the ways the film delivered this.

    One of the ways is the mostly very good use of lead actress Abe. As with the poster, the film makes good use of her face as a frame for the action. She is frequently shown in close up and the camera moves around her, or shows things over her shoulder – okay it does this too much in my opinion, but it is a nice visual theme. It works though because Abe is so consistently good at this aspect of her performance. Part of the reason I wanted to see the film was because I was curious if a woman who was then on ITV convincingly playing a 14-year old girl in a kids comedy, would also be able to work as an older, darker character. She does and she does a lot with her face and body so that the viewer does feel like, although young (as per the script) she carries a lot of weight – and you do get that sense. Some of the things the script asks of her don't help her but when it comes to the oft-used approach of filming her silently in thought, she delivers so that she grabs the camera and the viewer. I preferred her scenes in Japanese to English because, as a character says, her English is impeccable – which didn't wash that she should have such a clean accent. Working with her Kajioka is also good although he is asked to do some comic things that don't fit the film. Beyond him though the drop-off is noticeable and for whatever reason a lot of the rest of the cast is pretty unnatural. Maybe this is related to the writing, but performances from Chok, Wurawa, Maimone and others just seemed to be very stiff and on the surface – particularly when set against Abe doing her thing.

    Ukpo's ambition to do this film and follow it up with a second part is to be applauded and he makes very good use of sets and b/w film to set a mood – okay it never feels like Tokyo really, but he covers it mostly. There are things in Random 11 which work very well but unfortunately the central story is not one of them – and this is the main thing, other weaknesses exist but this is the killer one. I continue to look forward to more from Ukpo, but I hope that as his ambition causes him to race forward reaching out, that he improves the basics so that he is not stumbling while he drives forward.

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