Two strangers scarred by childhood abuse seek release and relief in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse: the latest postcard from the edge by noir-ish Japanese novelist and filmmaker Murakami (In the Miso Soup, 2004, etc.).
Deceptively mild-mannered graphic designer Kawashima would like nothing more than to lay his demons to rest. Beaten by his mother from a young age and placed in a group home, he seems to have found happiness at last with wife Yoko and infant daughter Rie. Alas, their idyll is short-lived; he fights “night terrors” and the overwhelming urge to skewer Rie with an ice pick as she sleeps. Not that his fascination with ice picks is anything new: Kawashima once impaled a stripper-cum-lover who was old enough to be his mother. Fueled by memories of Basic Instinct and his peers at the group home, he hatches a plan to check into a downtown Tokyo hotel and hire a prostitute to torture and murder. After a trial run with a masseuse, he books his accommodations and the services of a young S&M club worker. When Chiaki arrives, she turns out to have her own history of molestation by her father and less-than-wholesome attachments to the drug Halcion, nipple rings and self-mutilation. Promptly stabbing herself in the thigh, Chiaki misconstrues Kawashima’s interest in her and further complicates their grisly pas de deux. Not only is she a “kindred spirit” in suffering, but she also shares his high threshold for pain, boundless rage and uncontrollable flashbacks. The running commentary about the powerlessness of children and the interconnectedness of sex and violence merely mutes the vividness of the characters’ perceptions.
Eventually runs out of steam.